Monday, June 27, 2011

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Did you survive Field Day over the weekend?  The Big Island Amateur Radio Club held its Field Day at Hilo's Wailoa Visitors Center.  From what I could see during a break from my newsroom duties, the club had a small, but enthusiastic turnout.  Bob, AH6J, the Pacific Section Manager for the ARRL, had a nice public display complete with a grab and go communications system (we call it the "bucket" because all of the radio equipment fits in a padded bucket).  He spent most of Saturday evening talking up amateur radio with the local residents who stopped by for demonstrations and free snacks.  The club conducted FCC tests as well, netting one new General Class and one new Technician Class License.  I submitted a record of the public service announcements KKBG-FM/KHLO-AM aired during the run-up to Field Day.  Also posted was a Field Day article from the "Hawaii Tribune-Herald" newspaper.  I'm confident the club will get its 100 bonus points for public information.  Although I wasn't able to spend much time at the 2A station, I had a lot of fun talking with our younger members.  The club "elmers" were pleased that the teen aged boys did so well fighting the QRM and getting some valuable experience in a contest and emergency situation.  The young hams seemed to enjoy themselves.  The club station was simple--two small monoband beams for 20 and 15 meters and phased verticals for 40 meters.  The club even had a satellite station.  I don't know how many satellites the club nabbed, since I had to return to the broadcast station and get some shut eye before I returned for another day at the drag races.  I'm the track announcer, so I couldn't do much operating.  But, at least I showed up and managed to talk a bit about ham radio with a few visitors.

During a break earlier today, I ran across an excellent arntenna article by Joe Tyburczy, W1GFH, called "The $4 Special".  The article was re-published in today's (27 June 2011) edition of the eham.net website.  I read the article a few years ago and learned the value of "rolling your own" antenna at a very cheap price.  Joe's advice is simple: "The plain and simple truth is that wire antennas for the HF bands were intended to be hand-made and not store-bought."  While he acknowledges that most commercial antennas are well designed and effective, he prefers to make his own antennas with materials at hand.  Although his $4 price may have expanded a bit since the article was first published, the cost effectiveness of his basic inverted "v" can't be beat if you're on a strict budget.  This ham speaks my language.  My current antenna (excluding my under the house 40-meter loop), is an inverted "v" similar to W1GFH's.  The only difference between his skyhook and mine is that I'm using 450-ohm balanced line instead of his 300-ohm TV twinlead.  Joe says you can use anywhere from 33 to 66 feet for each side of the "v" and about 30 feet of twinlead to your tuner or balun/tuner combination.    Each leg of my "v" is 33 feet, so I can roam between 40 and 10 meters without putting a huge strain on my old Drake MN-4 ATU.  While the performance of this arrangement will not match a decent beam or a dipole 50 feet in the air, it does get me many contacts running between 10 and 50 watts.  Another benefit is the absence of an extensive radial system buried in the lawn.  My yard is very small, so my original radial system for the old vertical ran all over the place.  If you want a simple antenna that works, try Joe's inverted "v".  There's no harm in saving for the beam and a 50-foot tower, but, if you want to get on the air with a basic system, the inverted "v" will work until your ideal antenna system is built.  Because of the limitations of my back yard and the proximity of power lines, the tower and beam are being saved for another day.  I still have fun and manage to get all the contacts I can handle.  Other than getting 30 to 33 feet of mast, most of the material should be fairly cheap and available at the nearest hardware store.  Besides, I prefer to build my own antennas.  Each to their own.  If you can afford a tower and a beam, go for it.  The closest I've come to erecting a tower and a beam was at a Field Day several years ago.  I've used a few homebrew vertical beams in the past...many patterned after the directional arrays used in AM broadcasting.  These antennas work quite well, if you're willing to have a extensive radial system and a robust phase shifting network.  My homebrew rhombic will have to wait until I move into a more expansive home with a bit more property.  Rhombics are excellent if you have the space, poles, and wire to string them.  For now, I'll use the simple verticals, inverted "vees", and loops I can erect myself.  The important thing is to get on the air and use the best system you can obtain with the resources available.

That's all for now.  It's time to close the newsroom until 0300 hrs (local time) Tuesday.  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.