Friday, October 21, 2016

Progress on the FTDX9000DX

I've sold the FT2000D to help in the purchase of my FTDX9000MP. I must admit I liked the 2000D, it was a good rig, a bit of power with 200 watts and a nice DSP set up and if I could I would have kept it but it just wasn't practical. So I was quite sad to let it go. A nice chap in Northern Island bought it for a reasonable price and  I'm sure he will enjoy using it and it will be well looked after.
All I have left now is my trusty K2, a Tokyo ATU and my OHR-100A QRP 5 watt transceiver together with 3 RockMites and the FTDX9000MP. All other bits and pieces are now going towards financing the Yaesu. Actually I need a good clear-out, so this is just the excuse I need.

I'm continuing to learn more about the FT9000, I've just ordered a 64Mb memory card for the recording of voice and CW. I'm also at the stage of working out what exactly I can get on the Monitor. Looking in more detail you can actually set up an internal log book with maps of contacts. You can set up times around the world and if you have one, set up a rotator with all directions of the compass! But as things progress I will no doubt begin to understand more that's available to me.

The FTDX9000MP takes up so much room!

Contact wise has been interesting, I tried my first SSB QSO the other day with a chat to a ham in Texas, who gave me a 59 at 300 watts which wasn't bad considering the conditions and with CW I had another QRP contact from a German station who was only using 0.5 watts from Leipzig. The receive capability is just amazing, you can pick out these QRP stations quite easily and no one else seems to be able to hear them!

M0AUW at the controls
It's not all plain sailing though, a classic mistake I did today was install the MD-1 mic I have in to the back of the rig (you have to, as the front is a special 3 point pin) and if not fitted correctly the rig will lock itself and you are unable to transmit. I spent a good hour looking for a reason why it wouldn't transmit finally got some info off the web which solved the problem! Still got loads to learn!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Begali Key

Being a CW fan I have a number of straight keys and one or two paddles. I have a Stillwell straight key which is a good handmade solid key and I have a couple of the Czech keys that are very good day to day keys .
I also have a bencher and a Kent paddle key that I try to use fairly often, but my paddle skills are still not the best and I seem to have good days and bad.

Another key I have is a Begali Spark straight key which is very nice (so it should be for the price)! Very smooth to operate and a nice light feel to it, although its quite heavy so there is no need to lock it down when in use, unlike the Czech keys.

I've been using this with the FTDX9000, the light touch with the ability to easily alter the spring or the gap is very useful when replying to different operators. I don't know if I'm the only one doing this, but  I adjust my keys, quite often depending on what mood I'm in, if I'm tired and want to key a slow QSO I open the gap and tighten the spring so I have to work a bit, or I go the other way if I'm with it and wide awake to speed things up. Does anybody else do this or is it just me?

My speed is still quite slow, around 14/15 words per minute, the other thing I find which maybe because I'm get older and hopefully wiser, is you don't have to speed along. A lot of CW operators tend to send faster than they can be understood, their spacing is wrong or each letter becomes one great long word. Simply because they are sending faster than they actually capable of.

That's quite a statement I know, but I think its true. Just because you can understand 18/20 wpm doesn't mean you can send correctly at 18/20 wpm and boy can you hear it sometimes. 
But other skilled operators, it is true music to your ears, precise timing, the right spacing, makes all the difference.

Of course you get used to different types of code being sent, but you know when you can hear good CW. It can be fast, but you can understand it and it makes all the difference.

It's interesting that I used to be around 18, but I've slowed since my stroke, I've lost the capability to memorize the conversation so I have to write most of it down. BNC,  Brain Not Correlated any more! Still the old adage is practise practise and I certainly intend to do as much as I can so the speed should eventually pick back up!

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Follow up on 2 Meter Yagi and Rotator

I have finally put the two meter yagi in the attic together with the completed and refurbish rotator. So far so good, the alignment is correct and I have been listening in on my local club net with most members due north of my positition.

Fitting it all in the attic proved a little more difficult having to resize the height and obviously fit the wiring from the attic floor to below in to the shack, but eventually I got there and completed it without bringing the roof down!

 The cleaned up rotator set up in the attic

The yagi facing north fits snugly, especially where at first it was limited with turning 360 degrees because of height but with a quick alteration all was well.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

FTDX9000MP The Ultimate!

The FTDX9000MP is probably the ultimate rig for me. I think for the last few years I have been pandering after one but the thought of spending around £8000 for a new one filled me with dread and there was no way I could afford that kind of money for a rig.

Then by chance my Brother in law bought a used one for just under £4000. Naturally I was over at his place to see this extraordinary rig in action and I wasn't disappointed! What a rig, it's massive, dwarfing my FT2000d . With all its bell and whistles I wondered what it would be like to use in anger. I had a small play, but to be honest I couldn't really sit there and do the things I wanted to do simply because I'm more a CW man and he is more an SSB so it was completely different set ups.

Then my brother in law who is a finicky sort of bloke , who likes his equipment to be spotless and clean, free of marks of any kind and this used machine had a few marks here and there, nothing terrible but the previous owner had been a smoker and the radio stank of tobacco. The owner had realised it was in need of a bit of a clean up and had ordered a new PSU cover from Yaesu but that was about it.  My brother in law had obviously given it a think and rang a certain dealer looking for bits to replace his beloved FTDX9000MP, things like covers and cable ETC.

 The dealer was sympathetic but started chatting to him about the possibility of buying a new rig altogether on a special deal rather than trying to build up the older rig. Somehow as he does, my brother in law came out smiling with a new rig, he now owned two FTDX9000MP's.

The brother in Law was over the moon having done a decent deal and suggested we go up to London together to pick up his brand new and spotless FTDX9000MP.
Well you know what's coming next?
So there we were in the car travelling up to London and he casually mentions on the way , "how would you fancy owning an FTDX9000MP"?

I was flabbergasted, my ultimate rig had arrived it was just there for me to say....... yes!
It took me all of a couple of seconds, I'd sell the FT2000d give my brother law a deposit and pay him on a monthly basis with no interest what could be better? He was happy, he had his new rig for a special deal plus he had sold the older rig to me and I was delighted.

By the weekend we had brought the FTDX9000MP over to my house set it up. But because of all the old kit in the way we just had to let it sit in my shack till I could clear some space.

 Monday morning comes and I 've cleared enough space for the beast to sit comfortably with its monitor and PSU. It wasn't till the evening I managed to actually connect up, give it clean and a polish, (it really didn't need much work), switch it on and have a play, I was like a kid in a candy shop.

Twenty meters I hear a QRP station RA7RA, he calls CQ a few times, I'm on ten watts, what the hell lets try!
First time he comes straight back, name is Pavel, RST 599, QTH Savastapol that's 2500 km or 1500 miles he putting out 150 milliwatt of power, no else can hear him yet I can , that's a Cobweb antenna and an FTDX9000MP for you!

I kid you not, once you've tried the rig there's no going back and I thought the FT2000D was a good rig.

The receive capability is just something else, I could go on and on, it's just an amazing rig, it's rather like you've been driving a reasonable car then you jump in to a Rolls Royce or a Ferrari.

It's early days yet but I've had more QSO's since getting the rig than I have in the past 3 months!

Friday, October 7, 2016

Continuation of the Rotators Builds

I've polished up the bell of the CDR HAM-M and I must admit it looks pretty good. All the ball bearings have now arrived and I have started fitting them back into their prospective collars, now I find out when I fit them back in to the rotator if I have them the right way round!

Checking that the collar is still good for fitting after cleaning is essential as they are reasonably delicate, plus you can test out your theory of which way up they fit if you don't know. All the websites I've looked at regarding rotator servicing just mention about noting which way the ball bearing face in their collar rather than pictures, which I would obviously prefer so mistakes are not made. Sorry the picture below is a bit fuzzy but hopefully you get the idea!

Below is one collar I have refitted with new ball bearings, if when first dismantling you notice any ball bearings rusted or pitted, I would definitely replace, the bearings are cheap and it's definitely worth doing a replacement rather than the pain of them jamming once put back together.

The ring gear has also had a clean but looks pretty sound, no need to replace thank fully,  so I will go ahead with a light greasing and refit. 

I'm just waiting on the terminal strip now , I will then need to take out the old one, clean up the connections and resolder to the new terminal and then will give it a smoke test and see how it goes!

The smoke test proved interesting.... Nothing happened so I had to recheck everything. Turned out the wiring within the rotator was faulty and I've yet to find the fault. So I turned to the CDE AR-40, this is a different set up that uses far less ball bearings, they are only a handful evenly spaced within the rotator bell. Easier to clean up and re-grease so I'm not complaining!

An afternoon later, after working out how to reset in the right direction with the help of a Utube video, I had got it back together and because I hadn't been able to get the CDR HAM-M working I pinched the terminal plate (cos it was the new one), I connected all up for the smoke test and it started whizzing around no problem.
I decided to call it a day, as I had two out of the four now working correctly.

I will work on the other two to see if they are repairable or use them for spares, either way for the price I think I did reasonable well!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Rebuilding a CDR Ham Rotator Model HAM - M

Well I tested the two Ham IV rotators and one definitely works and the other I will use for spares, but I was told by the seller that both were working. One of these rotators I plan to use for my main HF antenna system when I get it up and running. All I'm going to do now is buy some cable and get things ready.

The only problem I came across with the Ham IV rotators were there size and weight they were just too big for my simple scaffold pole with my VHF set up. What I needed was a smaller style TV antenna that would be light enough for the scaffold pole or up in the attic.

The same chap who I had originally bought the rotators off also had a lighter CDR Ham Rotor rotator. He wanted £40 for it and would also supply a spare AR-40 and the control box, the problem was they were not in pristine condition and needed a good service, I'd never attempted servicing a rotator before, but I had the manual and Utube so I thought what the hell , let's give it a go.

Looking at the two rotators I had previously bought, one was just filthy and full of grease and opened up ( by the previous owner) but the bits were all there in a box. The other was together but the cable connections and terminal strip were shot and stuck with rust from being in the outdoors, they needed a good soak in penetration fluid to free them up. The idea being to then test it to see if anything major was needed to be done.

In the meantime I would start on the dismantled AR- 40 rotator and start cleaning it, degreasing and see if I could put it together. Cleaning took me a day of just removing the old grease and polishing it up. The two ball bearing holders were cleaned but it was obvious I would need 50 new ball bearings as the old were pitted and badly rusted.

I decided the terminal strip had really seen better days. I'd tried to fix it with a simple choc block but there was no way the choc bloc was going to sit where the strip was. So I've went on line and found a UK supplier of rotator parts and ordered a new strip which should be with me in the next few days.

You can see in the pictures how bad it is and no wonder some of the screws were not moving, they were so rusted up! But apart from that, everything else just needed a good clean and degrease and I don't think I'll need to replace anything else. The new ball bearings arrived the other day so I've fitted them in their collar and they are sitting ready to be refitted, typically I needed a further 50 ball bearings for the other collar so I had to re-order and am still awaiting there arrival.
The only other problem I have thinking forward is which way up do I fit the collars with the ball bearings, smooth or the marked side? I think the smooth side should be facing up when located back in the bell end of the rotator like this picture which I found on the web, and if logic dictates this feels right.
Which would then mean they end up like the next picture and although it isn't a CDR Ham, I think most designs would be similar. So the higher facing part of the bearings in the collar actually face downwards.
Until I get the rest of the parts I can't really continue with the restoration so for the moment I'll just have to wait till all parts have arrived. Further updates in my next post!

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Building a 2 Meter Yagi (Version 2)

A while back I built a 2 meter Yagi and had great fun playing around on my local club net with it  attached to a small rotator, but as is the case, I moved on to other things and sold the TV rotator and the Yagi on to a friend.

The original
I noticed in the stats of this blog that one of the most read items is the building of that 2 meter Yagi. It's a very simple design and for its simplicity it works very well especially for my latest project with my newly acquired Trio 700s where I needed a small Yagi antenna. So I read back in the blog and decided to make a mark 2 version.

The first items I required was three aluminium 18mm tubes, two at one metre length and the other at 1500mm and one boom 15mm by 15mm square also at 1 metre in length. I would also require three pieces of wooden curved dowel (12") to support the aluminium tubes when mounted, a small but thick piece of copper wire for the hairgrip 12.5mm in length and 10 plastic tie grips.

The aluminium tubes will be rear element 1020mm, drive element 920mm and front 890mm. The rear and front will remain at their lengths but the drive will need to be cut accurately in half and then two small hole drilled about 2 mm from one end to take a small screw for the coax and hairpin wire.
The hairpin wire should be 5 cm in length bent at right angles 2.2cm width, and bent again at right angles for another 5cm. the width between ground and live should be the 2.2 cm.

A = 5cm B = 2.2cm

The coax should be roughly a metre long, stripped for a PL259 at one end and split for ground and live at the other with two metal eyes soldered on for a screw placement on the drive element. If this antenna was going outside it would then be waterproofed for protection, but in this case it was going in my attic.

You can alter the length of the A  for minor adjustment of SWR.

The elements are fixed by the plastic tie grips going round each of the dowels and the tubes, they are light and hold the tubes in place. The wooden dowels are then screwed in to place in to the boom by a small screw or you could fit a small bolt and nut.

I got a good 1:1 and 1:2 SWR over the upper part of 144MHz  and lower 145 MHz and as soon as I can will be placing it up in my attic to see how it does with a bit of dxing!

Here is the link to the site for further explanation:  Yagi Build

All Mode 2 meter DX and Rotators

I managed to pick up an old Trio 700s all mode transceiver the other day at a fairly cheap price that was just too good to miss, although I already have an Alinco 2 meter rig, but it's purely for local FM traffic. So here was a chance to see what some SSB work on a VHF rig was like as I hadn't done much in all my years in the hobby!

Trio 700s complete with amp and pwr

But the first thing I really needed was a decent antenna, a Yagi or similar and a bit of power as 10 watts from the Trio might not get me too far. My old homebrew Yagi had long gone so I needed to build another and in the meantime my Brother in Law had given me an old 6 element job that needed a bit of a clean up but would certainly do for the moment. I managed to find a small amplifier off the web which gave me 50 watts of power and I began setting things up and experimenting.

It sure is quiet out there, maybe it was conditions but not a lot was happening, but through a bit of perseverance I knew I was receiving and transmitting on the local club net. But that 6 element Yagi was proving very direction and I was getting sick of the arm strong method running downstairs from my shack to where the antenna was placed, a rotator was required.

Have you seen the price of rotators lately?
It was a bit of a shock, I wanted something small and light like a TV rotator, but you try and find a new one in the UK, it seems they are out of favour. plenty of second hand ones on eBay, but going for more than the new ones used to be and they looked pretty worn out anyway!

Still at a loss I kept searching hoping that something would turn up and then out of the blue my brother in law who happened to be doing a deal with mate regarding a radio, was also selling a  Ham IV rotator for £60 and rang to let me know, so I bought it on his word!

The two Rotators and control boxes

I was lucky, it was in reasonable condition, even better it came with a spare that had a cracked collar and two control units, it just need the 8 core cable and it was complete.  The only downsize was I realised it might be a bit heavy for what I wanted, which was to mount on a scaffold pole up 25ft but I could work round that and if necessary place it in the attic with my new home brew smaller Yagi.

Testing the motor on a block of wood it was pretty sturdy and was not going to move all over the place and I decided after a bit of thought I would try it in my attic, height of the antenna might be a problem but I was living in a house at 800 ft above sea level and a 20 foot scaffolding pole might not make a lot of difference.

So I decided to carry on regardless and see what the outcome would be, after all I could always change if needed. I measured the 6 element beam and although at 3 meters it would just fit in the attic at a low position I decided to go ahead and re build a 3 element Yagi and store the 6 ele for another time.

The new 3 element homebrew Yagi has been built copying earlier specifications from my blog and I will do a separate note on how to build it. In the meantime  I've yet to place all the equipment up in the attic, but I intend to do this over the weekend, so updates will follow.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Revamping the Carolina Windom 80 Special

A couple of years ago I had played about with my old Carolina Windom 80 special  by reducing its size to the 40 Windom, but I soon realised when testing that the balun was individually set for a Carolina 80 special and so I had to revert back to its original size to make it work. The problem was I originally reduced the size because I didn’t have the length of land required for it to fit! So the Carolina 40 was put away in the shed until I could find time to re-build and figure out a way for it to fit in my garden!

The 40 I had made from the original Carolina Windom 80 special
The length of antenna issue had been sorted by having the good fortune to purchase a bit more land off the farmer, as it had come up for sale just at the right time, not just for an antenna farm I hasten to add, but for increasing the size of our plot with a mini paddock to do with what we liked and it just happened that a Carolina Windom 80 special happened to fit snugly in the paddock!

The forty being 66 feet in length (41ft and 25ft split), needed to revert back to the original size of 133 feet, 83 feet on one side and 50 feet the other. All I did was increase the length of each side by soldering new pieces of 42 stranded cable wire, nothing else was touched. Now I had to hope that the balun and transformer (1:1 balun) would still be working even though I had been messing about with them and 22 foot coax was now totally new!

I took my old fibre glass 20 foot slotted mast and I increased it in size by 10 feet with some specially strengthened plumbing tubing slotted together so that the 22 foot coax cabling with transformer would hang freely.
I re-measured the actual antenna wire lengths to confirm I now had 83 and 50 feet, did some simple soldering to the 4:1 balun to strengthen and stiffen it and hoisted up to 30 odd feet to do SWR tests, thinking that it probably wouldn’t work but I had some fun doing the build process.

Initial tests were quite good except with the 40 meter band were the average SWR was about 2.0 but even so I could just about use with a tuner.

80 MHz                 1.4 – 1.8 across the band

40 MHz                 1.8 – 2.0 across the band

20 MHz                 1.3 – 1.5 across the band

15 MHz                 1.4 – 1.6 across the band

10 MHz                 1.7 – 1.9 across the band             

Being pleasantly surprised by the outcome and comparing against the Cobweb and Hustler it’s not a bad antenna for a multi bander and of course it does state that you have to use with a good tuner.
Over the next few weeks I will try to make a few improvements here and there. But all things considered I’m quite pleased with my semi homebrew antenna!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Building a Six Meter Dipole

 I have finally got round to building a six meter dipole. I searched the web for some ideas and came up with this simple dipole just to get me started.

At a later stage once I've got the idea of how the band works with its various different segments I'll build a small Yagi.

In the meantime, this is very simple , two approximate 5ft aluminium poles (to start before trimming) about 10 mm circumference screwed together on a piece of curved wood for support and strength. Then connected with some heavy duty electrical wire to an SO 239 female connector. The whole lot has then been attached via screw through the wood to some old plastic bread board I cut to size and then mounted on a fibre glass 20ft pole.

The basic layout of the 6 meter dipole

The SO 239 connector is used for the PL259 plus cable at the back


The whole antenna fixed to the fibreglass pole with a nice shot of the cobweb and other inverted V's in the background!
So far on receiving I am getting some good signals and the MFJ readings are indicating 1:1 over the CW portion of the band and 1:2/3 further up towards SSB. I'm yet to transmit as the band hasn't been open in time for me to get going.
But it's early days yet and I am sure I can improve things with this antenna or playing around with a more directional antenna, and I'll update as I go forward.