Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Kenwood TS-950SD

Well I've got the Kenwood TS 950SD, I had to drive down to Paignton in Devon for it which was a bit of a pain, especially when having to drive in a 1.2  Terios 4 wheel drive, buts that's another story.

I must admit when I'd got home and set the radio up I was pleasantly surprised, the condition of the bodywork was exceptional, not a scratch anywhere, which you would have thought for its age there would be something and when I switched on the receive was very clear and quiet and by adding the filtering I could zero any CW signal right down.

My first QSO was with a German station who gave me a good 589 with just 20 watts, I knew straight away this radio was a winner. I've got to now try and find a few accessories like the speaker and a nice desk mike but I don't think that should cause too much of a problem.

A further update is I've managed to track down an SP-950 so all I need now is a decent desk mic and I should be OK.

Recently I've been playing with the Rockmites, digging them out from the back of the shelf in the shack, dusting them off and checking they are all working correctly. I'm always amazed at the fact that I have the FTDX 9000MP which can produce 400 watts of power and retails now at £8000 and yet at the other end of the scale I have three Rockmites, built by myself that produce 1.5/2 watts, and cost around £30 each. I can contact locals in the UK or Europe and have a good CW QSO, it does make you think.

I have three Rockmites, 20,30 and 40 meters
 If you ever want to have some cheap and cheerful fun with QRP, build a Rockmite! It's easy, it doesn't take long to assemble and with the right conditions you'll be amazed at what you distance you can achieve.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Pleasant Surprise!

Sunday late afternoon, I was trawling over 20 meters listening to what was about and amongst the usual suspects of European stations I heard an American calling, K1NTW somewhere on the East coast nr Boston which got my interest.

He was calling a QRP station in Wisconsin, Mike AA9AA from Manitowoc. I could hear a very faint sound of CW that was very QSB but just readable. I was wondering what his power output was, when I heard K1NTW come back to Mike with "FB wid ur 2 wtts"! I couldn't believe it I was hearing a Wisconsin station putting out just 2 watts of power.

I checked my logbook for his call sign as AA9AA is kind of hard to forget and I knew we had spoken at some stage before but it turned out it was way back in 2014 when conditions were a little better. I thought I would try a QSO and tuned up the FTDX 9000 and called him.

He came straight back with a 559 and we had a little chat. Admittedly there was a lot of QSB but I had got through and was very pleased especially with the current conditions. But it just goes to show there is good stuff out there and with a little patience and tuning you can find it! It does just show what a great hobby this is.

Some of you may have read my previous post about my Brother in Law finding and purchasing a very nice Kenwood 950SDX, I did say it had got me hankering after one as it would make a great spare rig with the FTDX 9000 MP.

Well of I started hunting around but the 950 SDX is bit like searching for hens teeth.
Eventually I spotted a very nice 950 SD which was in mint condition for its age at a reasonable price. Obviously similar to the SDX, I snapped it up and am due to collect in a week or two. I can't wait to pick it up, it should prove a great addition to the shack.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Experimenting with 2 Meter Yagis

The summer has past in the blink of an eye and we are starting to see the leaves drop as well as the temperature!
 Tuning the 9000 around 20 and 17 meters yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to hear some US and Canadian stations booming in which I hadn't heard for a while especially as the majority seemed to be from the east coast!
The signals lately have been all European with the odd DX which can get pretty monotonous after while. Lets hope with the onset of winter signals start booming in again form all over the world.

Since the bands have been so quiet I have been playing around with my 2 meter antenna set up which consists of a 9 element Yagi and my home made 3 element. Obviously there is a big difference, with the 9 element pointing up north I have got as far as Yorkshire, whereas with the 3 element I'm closer to Birmingham which is about 50 miles from the QTH, but its good fun experimenting, made a lot easier by having the tilt over mast and winch!

Having to swap antennas is part of the fun and seeing and comparing the difference can be very interesting. The only downside is that 2 meters seems to be so quiet these days. The 9 element Yagi worked very well but I found was quite narrow transmitting and receiving, if you moved the rotator slightly right or left you occasionally lost the signal. So being a bit of a learner it was a lot of trial and error but great fun when you managed to get a good DX signal. The homebrew 3 element Yagi was much easier and wider so I think I will use that  as my main 2 meter antenna rather than my collinear I have in my attic for the next week or so to see what improvements if any are available.

My Brother in law has once again grabbed another bargain, this time a very nice Kenwood 950 SDX. I'd forgotten had good these transceivers were and I might add still are. Of course now I've seen one in action again, I've had the usual hankering of wanting to get one for myself, but I think the XYL may have something to say about that!

Monday, August 14, 2017

Cable Movement!

Nearing the retirement age does has it compensations, one being the pension money starts to come in! With that in mind the XYL and I have been planning on making the house that little bit more cosy for when we do eventually retire.

One of these plans involves the rear of the house where we plan to replace our present excuse for a conservatory with a proper one that we can actually use. Plans have been drawn up and paperwork has been signed and the removal and rebuilding begins at the end of this month.

Having a shack on the 1st floor of the house above the conservatory with a lot of the coax connections, cables for the rotator and earth wires either going down the side or above means they will probably have to be moved. Which will be a little annoying as I have recently got everything just right for the Yagi and Hustler but for the sake of a new conservatory which we have been waiting for nearly 10 years I suppose I can put up with the disturbance!

In fairness the builders have said that anything underground if pointed out to them they will not disturb, so most of the earth wire and  buried rotator cable should be OK. But I think the coax running just above the roof of the conservatory will be another matter though, well see. I suppose if any cables do need to be removed it will be a good time to service or replace some as they have been up for some time.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Rotators and The FTDX 9000MP

The new mini Yagi has been working well and I'm very pleased with it. So much so that I have gone and bought the Mini WARC kit which arrived at the beginning of the week. Mosley have been very helpful with a quick turn round and delivery of the kit. The cobweb has now been brought down and I just have the hustler as a spare  antenna
Now that I have my rotator all set up I don't really need the spare Ham IV which was sitting in my shed doing nothing. So I decided to sell it and let some other Ham have the pleasure of servicing and cleaning it up. It had the manual with it and two control boxes, so I reckoned it should be pretty easy to clean up and would be a nice project for somebody. As soon as I advertised the rotator an amateur got in touch, would you believe it was Len Paggett GM0ONX whom I originally got the design of the W3DZZ trap 80/40m dipole which I still use to this day!

He is using it for spares for his own Ham IV rotator, so it's with a certain satisfaction that it's going to Len.

Having now owned the FTDX 9000MP for a number of months I can realistically give a review on the radio. I have owned a number of good rigs, from Kenwood 950 DX to an FT1000 MP Mk V and an FT2000d, but the 90000MP is without doubt an amazing radio in capability and size, it dwarfs most other rigs, 400 watts at your fingertips. The receive on both the A and B receivers is outstanding and mirrored, you can use the filters on both receivers this alone make it one exceptional radio.

Using the either receiver you are able to pick a faint station and narrow the signal right down. All the filters work exceptionally well. The SSB capability is truly amazing and I still have lots to learn as I'm more a CW man, but in SSB I still get genuinely surprised when I hear a station in a big pile up and by using the filters and narrowing the width I can get the station quite clear and then when turning the narrow and filters off I hear the wall of sound from the other stations. With CW it the same, I can literally call test or CQ, CQ QRP at a press of a button, what you hear you can work, all switches and buttons are easily and thoughtfully laid out so there is no reaching or stretching. I still have much to learn about this fine radio, but the manual alone is more like a book and takes a while to master. So it's best to read bits and understand that section before moving on!


However, retailing new in the shops at £8K is it worth it , no not £8k! That's the price of a small car for gods' sake. The only reason I managed to fulfil my dream of owning this radio was by chance and more importantly at the right price for a used radio. Although these are hand built  and I accept all that craftsmanship and skill has gone in to them, it's an awful lot of money and I couldn't justify buying new. Buying an FT5000 new would be my limit, but a used FTDX90000, that's different!

I was lucky and very much at the limit of what I would be willing to pay for such a high class radio. That said I have no regrets and all I would say if you ever get the chance, grab it with both hands.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Post hexbeam

At last a bit of good news, I managed to sell the Hexbeam antenna over the weekend for the same price I paid. So apart from a bit of naivety I haven’t lost out too much!
The Yagi is now fully tuned and working well, but the winds are still blowing hard so raising the tilt over mast has been a bit on and off and the forecast says it will be another two days before it calms down.

With the success of the 17m Moxon I am thinking about adding a 12m Moxon as well. It should be simple to build and if I can’t hang the 17m under the Yagi I can always try to add the 12m antenna which obviously will be lighter. My only extra cost will be adding another coax cable from the 12m antenna back to the shack via the tilt over mast, otherwise I have all the parts I need somewhere in my shed.

If this is all successful I can then take my old cobweb down from the side of the house and all antennas will be moved across in to my mini paddock, which will make the XYL and family happy!

Monday, June 5, 2017

Antenna Frustrations & a Mosley Mini 32-A Yagi

I've finally tracked down a Mosley Yagi 32 - A mini antenna . I've been searching for one of these lightweight antennas for a while. I hope to get it this week and if it's light enough, (the brochure says it's 4.31 kg around 9lbs) it should be able to fit above the 17m moxon.

My antenna collection is growing but not without frustration! Now that I've built and tested the Hexbeam which is without doubt a good antenna, there is a problem, it is just too big! 

No matter how I tried to place it the Hexbeam was just too large and these sales ads of "ideal for a small garden" are beyond me. Brilliant for a field day or some event where it was for temporary use or somewhere hidden away, but I happen to live in an area of outstanding natural beauty where the locals would run riot with an antenna that size near to the road. The first hint came when assembling the poles and my wife who is normally very tolerant with my antennas remarked about the width of the antenna!

At least the Moxon is disguised against my treeline and it seemed to be dwarfed by the hex and I suspect it will be the same for the mini Yagi.

So now doing all that work of having rebuilt the centre post so there are two sets, assembled it, tested it, I now have to sell it which is a real shame.

The Mosley Mini 32-A has now been assembled and tested and seems to be working well. The SWR readings are all good peaking at 1.0 to 1.3 on all parts of the three bands I'm interested in, tweaking the FB is a little more tricky which I am in the process of doing at the moment but its just a case of adjusting the reflector.

I am unable at present to have the Moxon below the Yagi as they both have different mast plates sizes, the Yagi being 1.5" and the Moxon is 2". So I'll need to get plates that match in size

Typically the WX has closed in for the next few days with gales forecast so all work has had to stop. Might as well start advertising the hex in one of the radio classifieds!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Hawaii Calling!

Listening on 20 meters at 6.45 GMT this morning I hear the usual Europeans and Russians doing their morning rounds. Then quite by chance I hear at first what I think is an American station.

Tuning in further to investigate, I reckon its west coast, but then I hear the call KH6CW Hawaii! Coming in beautifully at 5/9, the operator was named Harry and was having great conversations with lots of EU stations. I thought about diving in for a QSO but having just risen out of bed and not yet had my breakfast and being half asleep, I wasn't in my QSO mode!

But it just goes to show when the bands seem dead up pops something interesting and out of the blue!

Distance 11,716 Km !

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The New Tilt Over Mast Arrives

Fresh from Scotland, MM0CUG Gary arrived with his brother and my tilt over mast. He does monthly deliveries all over the county including Northern Ireland, dropping different masts off from his trailer, quite a tiring task I suspect, but they seem to enjoy it. Like a typical cottage industry it has taken off as word has spread about the quality and workmanship of the masts or towers they provide.

When they arrived they couldn't have been more helpful in the setting up and positioning of the mast and can honestly say they were exceptional and went out of their way to help!

The mast in place at low level, it can raise up to 35 feet
You should be able to see a telephone line passing through the middle of the picture.
I found the first time when raising the 17 moxon that it was very close and looking from certain angles I thought it was going to touch. 
It turns out I have about 3" to clear from the tip of the moxon to the wire, bit close to say the least, but at least it does clear. That's the biggest antenna I have, so I should be OK for all the others. I wouldn't mind too much, but I don't even use the telephone wire, as it's all underground fibre optics now!! 

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Rebuilding the Homebrew Hexbeam Antenna

So Clint's M0FHN Hexbeam antenna has arrived and at last I had some time to inspect it properly. It's very well built and interestingly he used an aluminium tube for a centre post, using extra coax as the ground. Because of this, the antenna is quite heavy, 15/16kg about 34lbs and that's not including the rotator, I'm not sure with the weight it will go on my new tilt over mast, it may be too heavy.

So what I thought I do is keep the aluminium centre post all in tact as it already has the element connected and is well weatherproofed, keep the reflector elements as well, store them all away. 
I'll remove the base plate, take the glass fibre spacer poles and the support cables which are all roughly measured out and I can adjust if needs be, use those in conjunction with a new lighter centre post made out of some thick fibre glass pole I had left over from making the 17 meter moxon.

I still have some 14 gauge wire left over from my Cobweb days and I'll use that for the new elements. This will give me valuable experience in building a Hexbeam and apart from the glass fibre spacer poles (which can easily be replaced) and I still have another spare Hex antenna.

I started on the centre pole yesterday and have been following K4KIO 's site on building the G3TXQ broadband hex, but adapting where I need to. The measurements for the centre post are the same and I have now drilled and fitted the wire terminals bolts. I've also fitted the top cap and a large bolt to take all the support cords.
The centre post
The wire terminals bolts are a little bit tricky to fit, but using a long piece of wire folded over attached to the bolt, you can fit them threw each drilled hole. These terminals will all need to be waterproofed with either hot glue or waterproof liquid tape. It's essential that everything is thoroughly protected from the weather or else the SWR can be effected.
The PVC cap is off another project and together with a bit of waterproof tape and glue it is wedged on to the top of the fibre glass pole. Again I will make sure it's tightly fitted by pouring some more hot glue underneath it. This has to be a good fit as it will hold all the support cords.
I've ordered some ring connectors for the elements and have completed measuring the 20m element directors and reflector, only six more bands to do! By the time I've done the measuring and cutting hopefully the ring connectors will have arrived and I can fit them.
 When weighing the original centre post which was 15lbs, the new centre post is coming in at 3lbs, but I've yet to add the coax connectors for each band. Fingers crossed it will be virtually half the weight of the original centre post, which would considerably lessen the weight of the whole antenna.
(A few days later):
Ok the base plate and spreader arms have been attached, they were all previously measured out so I had no real problems there. I've also added the support cords so the basic shape is now in place. I must admit it's bigger than I thought, so the idea of fitting in a small sized garden puzzles me slightly!
I've measured out the wire elements and as I only target 20, 17,15 and 12 meters at the moment, I'm just adding these I might add 10 and 6 later.
More to follow hopefully over the weekend.