Thursday, May 19, 2011

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

As the news cycle comes to a close in the KKBG-FM/KHLO-AM newsroom, my thoughts are turning to a relaxing drive home, a daily walk with the XYL (about 2-4 miles depending how ambitious both of us are), a good home cooked dinner, and some time with the trusty Swan 100-MX and my basic, but workable "antenna farm".  All of my rigs have been given the monthly cleaning and other necessary maintenance needed to keep them functional.  The older rigs are fun to use, but one must keep them maintained, since spare parts are getting scarce and expensive.  The antennas are a no-brainer, considering what I use to keep them up and running.  My biggest challenge is keeping one step ahead of Hawaii's salt air, vog, and heavy rains.  This trio can ruin a homebrew antenna is just a few weeks.  But thanks to co-ax seal, electrical tape, and some home-brew plastic enclosures, I manage to keep most of the moisture out.  Coax takes a real beating as well--not only from the elements but also from the geckos, rats, and orther garden beasties that have developed a taste for vinyl covered wire.  My coax problems are minor compared to the squirrel problem some amateur radio operators have experienced on the U.S. mainland.  None the less, small animals of various types can develop a taste for tape and wire, especially in an area that once hosted sugar plantations.  The legacy of rats, wild pigs, and other pests from those sugar cane days can often complicate antenna maintenance.  Thankfully, I have plenty of wire and coax from various station renovations to last a long time.  So replacing cable isn't a real hardship.  The only problem comes from mating regular UHF connectors to the "F" connectors found on most RG-6 cable runs.  There are a few parts places that can find suitable connectors to match these cables to UHF configured cables.  I ordered a bunch a few years ago, but I can't recall the name of the company that supplied them.  Talk about short-term memory loss.  Anyway, I haven't used regular RG-58 or RG-8 for several years since I have a good stock of RG-6 on hand.  My trusty Drake MN-4 ATU can handle the small mismatch encountered with RG-6.  The only shortage in my "junque" box is 450-ohm twin lead--something I usually order from AES or one of the other ham equipment distributors.  I've also used some home-brewed twin lead made from #14 gauge wire. 

Keeping with my ultra-simple and dirt cheap approach to antennas, I usually prefer simple dipoles, verticals, or loops.  My lot is fairly small and shares an access road lined by power poles and other obstructions.  A tower is out of the question for now.  A tower will have to wait until the XYL and I build our house on a larger lot.  Meantime, I'm having fun building a variety of "skyhooks".  Although I've tried stealth antennas inside the house, they don't work as well as an outdoor antenna.  I just don't like working too close to radiating elements and the problems they often create with in-house wiring and entertainment systems.  At the power levels I run (around 5-10 watts), my precautions are probably extreme.  Of course, amateur radio and all of its sub-hobbies provide an endless avenue to explore the electromagnetic  spectrum.  So much to investigate, so little time.  The idea is to have fun at minimal cost.

One of my future projects will be to build a low-power beacon station for 10-meters.  I have a few old CB radios that could be modified for that purpose.  Most likely, I'll opt for a kit or a home-brew contraption of my own design.  I have a few spare deep cycle marine batteries and some small solar panels which could be used to power the project.  It wouldn't be too hard to erect a 10-meter vertical in the backyard.  I've got enough radio projects to keep me busy for several months.  The other project will be to get an HF transceiver in the Honda Odyssey van.  I may have to think this one out, since I am adverse to punching a hole in the roof or on the side to accommodate a mobile whip.  I'm not a skilled metal worker or auto body specialist, so I may go for some kind of removeable magnetic mount.  The efficiency of this kind of arrangement will be low, so I may have to look at other options.

All the above is continguent on actually having the time to do a proper, professional job.  Any guidance in this area would be welcome.  Never a dull minute...time just seems to move faster the older I get.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.