Thursday, July 28, 2011

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio Operator, part 6

Here are a few more unusual and somewhat offbeat antennas I've used with varying degrees of success.  All of these "creations" work to the extent that you will get some contacts.  I've lived in a few challenging places where amateur radio antennas were never part of the landlord's world view.  Although my current qth is quite nice, it is still restricted to a small lot shared by 3 other modest rental homes and is approximately 20' away from utility poles.  With all of the salt air and moisture found on Hawaii Island, you can imagine the corona discharge problems I face several times a year.  To be fair, the Hawaii Electric Light Company does its best to keep the transmissions lines inspected and cleaned.  On an island with about 4,000 square miles, line maintenance is a major headache for the telephone, cable, and power companies.

In my antenna book for 2002, I found a stop-gap antenna that served me well while the backyard was being torn up for a new septic tank and water lines.  In place of a normal radial field for the trusty 40-meter vertical, I attached one line of the 450-ohm twin lead to the antenna and the other to my qth's metal roof.  The roof was bonded together.  After I scraped off a bare spot and attached the other lead, I fired up the old Swan 100-MX (20 watts or so).  With the help of my trusty Drake MN-4 ATU, I was able to get a decent match on all bands between 40 and 10 meters.  Nothing spectacular, but the substitute ground plane seemed to work.  I was able to make my infrequent appearance on the daily 40-meter interisland net with reports ranging from 56 to 58 on ssb.  Once the backyard work was done, I restored a normal ground system and painted over the roof area used for the antenna connection.  I'm not sure how efficient this antenna system was, but it did allow me to get on the air.

Recently, I've tried out a system used by many recreational vehicle owners.  I had an old mag mount with a 20-meter "Ham Stick" in the garage.  While the Odyssey van was parked on the lawn for a car wash I never did complete, I placed the mag-mounted "Ham Stick" on the van's roof, attached four, 16.5 ' radials to the antenna mount, and ran some RG-8 into the qth, and began a fun afternoon.  This primitive system worked well and I made several decent (57) ssb contacts to the U.S. mainland.  SWR was fairly low across the band (1.7 to 1).  With the ATU in line, I was able to improve the swr a bit.  Again, nothing fancy, but the lashup did work.  Once I figure out how to mount a permanent antenna on the van, I can use that system as a backup to the rig in the house.

The weekend lies ahead and that means some operating time.  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio Operator, part 5

One of the things I've enjoyed most about being an amateur or ham operator in Hawaii is the fairly consistent good weather for building and erecting home-brew antennas.  Other than our rainy season (November to March, generally), antenna experiments can be done in an unhurried fashion.  Since I'm not the most mechanically inclined operator, I need all the time I can get to make something that works.  In the 37 years since I was a novice class ham, I've built a large number of skyhooks that were just plain awful and a few others that were gems--largely because they worked despite my "cut and trim" approach to the art of antennas.  Over the past 3 decades, a combination of study and gradually increasing technical skills have enabled me to erect a number of antennas that not only look presentable, but also do a decent job of launching rf into the "ether".  While most of my antenna projects have been modest because of space restrictions, I've managed to make simple loops, verticals, and dipoles that give me hours of pleasure.

Occasionally, I run across a few antenna designs that can best be termed "unusual" or even bizarre.  When I pulled out my antenna notebook for 1997, I discovered an intriguing design by K3MT called "Grasswire Antenna:  another approach to hidden rf antennas."  The antenna first appeared in an April 1997 internet post.  Basically, K3MT end-fed an 85' piece of #12 gauge insulated wire through a trifilar balun wound on a T-200-2 core.  He laid the wire on the grass and attached a counterpoise wire (he also used an 8' ground stake as an alternative to the counterpoise).  He ran some coax to his shack and voila!  He had a wire that seemed to work fairly well.  His article contained a number of graphs which seemingly demonstrated how well the antenna worked.  His attached log showed a string of 559 to 599 reports from many stations.  He also designed a "grass" off-center fed dipole for those that prefer a G5RV or dipole configuration.  Whatever the limitations of this antenna might have been, it was a winner from the stealth point of view...out of sight, out of mind for nosey neighbors and HOAs.  K3MT said he could just roll up the antenna when he was done.

With all that in mind, I made a "quick and dirty" 20-meter dipole, fed it with RG-8 coax, laid the contraption on the front lawn, and attached the "ground warmer" to the Drake MN-4 ATU.  I actually made a few 20-meter contacts on Saturday afternoon.  Nothing fantastic (539 to 559), but I did make a few qsos.  Of course, I did a lot better when I attached the dipole as an inverted "vee" to my 33' pvc mast.  I don't know if this sort of antenna would be useful to those of  you facing severe operating restrictions.  You may want to experiment with this idea.  Who knows?  This antenna could give you an alternative to not operating at all.

Now that the news shift is over for the day, it's time to head home for a few hours of operating time.  Have a good day and get on the air.  Aloha es 73 KH6JRM.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Simple antennas for the Hawaii ham operator, part 4

This weekend has turned into a decent antenna day for amateur radio operators on Hawaii Island.  Since I completed most of my newsroom duties early this weekend, I was able to work on a few antenna ideas I first tried in my early days as a novice operator.  I pulled out my antenna notebook for 1978 and found a bunch of antenna ideas under the November category--a fairly wet month according to historical records.  That may have been the reason I fashioned a few "quick and dirty" verticals capable of being erected and taken down between drenching tropical showers. 

One of my vertical helix antennas proved useful and fairly cheap to construct.  Borrowing freely from the "ARRL Antenna Book" and various publications from the RSGB (Radio Society of Great Britain), I assembled a compact portable unit that could be used in an emergency.  I decided to re-build this skyhook on Saturday.  It works well, considering its narrow bandwidth sosme high angle radiation. 

I found an unused 10-foot piece of schedule 40 pvc pipe under the qth and decided to press this plumbing project left over into antenna service.  I spiral wound 66-feet of #22 gauge hook-up wire on the pvc pipe, attached a 9-inch diameter aluminum pie plate to the top for some top loading,  hooked up eight, 10-foot radials with detachable clips, and fed this contraption with some 450-ohm twin.  The twin lead went to my DX Engineering 4:1 balun and then to the trusty Drake MN-4 ATU.  A small piece of RG-58 coax mated the system to the venerable Swan 100-MX.  Does it work?  Yes, it does, with a very narrow bandwidth.  The helix can also work  the amateur bands from 40 to 10 meters, given that tuning will be very critical.  According to the "ARRL Antenna Book", a spiral wound helix of approximately 1/2 wavelength for the band of your choice should give you a compromise 1/4 wavelength vertical.  The impedance measured at the base of my homebrewed vertical helix was around 5 ohms, so there are quite a bit of losses.  The losses dropped once I added several more radials.  There is a difference of opinion on the length of the radials--some say the radials should be at least a 1/4 wavelenth for your design frequency,  Others I have read claim the radials should be as long as the length of the antenna support--in my case, around 10-feet.  Since my backyard is small, I will use as many radials as I can.  The helix does work and it could help you get a signal launched if there is no other choice.

I've modified the original support, dividing the 10-foot pvc pipe into two, 5-foot pieces, which can be joined to set up the antenna.  The antenna, 10 radials, a small antenna tuner, and a deep cycle battery now reside in the back of my Honday Odyssey van, ready for use.  In the future, I will set up this emergency antenna at a public park and see what I can do....so far, the old Yaesu FT-7 (at 10 watts) has garnered a few contacts using this system at the home station.  I do better with the Swan 100 MX, but for portable use, I'll stick to the old Yaesu.

Next on the design table is the building of a vertical dipole designed around the helix idea, with each section using 66-feet of #22 gauge wire, fed by 450-ohm twin lead.  Antennas along these lines can be found in most antenna books.  I tried this arrangement a few years ago, with some success on 40-meters.  Of course, results will depend on  your location, propagation, and available materials.  My "junk box" had a good source of materials, so I didn't have to spend much for wire and pvc pipe.

Another approach for those of us challenged by CC&Rs, noisy neighbors, and lack of space would be to build a simple dipole using "ham stick" mobile antennas for your band of choice.  I've used this type of antenna in the past.  This antenna will get you contacts, although not as many as a dipole up 40 to 50-feet.  Be creative with what you have--the idea is to experiment and to get on the air despite the limitations of your surroundings.  Our amateur radio experience is a continuous learning process.  For me, the stress relief and brief escape from our severely misaligned world are worth the effort.  There's something intriguing about launching rf into the "ether" and seeing where it goes.

Have a good weekend.....Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Simple antennas for the Hawaii Amateur Radio operator, part 3

The inverted 40-meter "vee" described in my previous post is performing well considering the severe space restrictions at my qth.  I would prefer some nearby trees to support a 40-meter dipole at a decent height (around 40 to 50 feet), but those living antenna supports are a few hundred yards away, so I will work with what I have. 

As I examined some of my earlier antenna notebooks, I discovered a few antenna designs that may prove useful in your situation.  When I first became a novice in 1977, I used a random length wire approximately 50' long tacked to the ceiling of the teacher's cottage my xyl and I called home.  I stretched out the wire as straight as I could and ran the antenna in and out of two bedrooms and the living room, which served as the operator's position.  The wire was attached to a homebrew tuner and a 50' counterpoise was attached to the tuner's ground screw.  The counterpoise wire snaked along the house's baseboard.  A low-pass filter was placed before the tuner to reduce any TVI that may be generated by my old HW-101 transceiver.  I hoped that running low power (around 20 watts or so) would eliminate any "rf" bite on the microphone and reduce the impact on any nearby electronics.  I was lucky.  I received no complaints and my television reception was unaffected.  I managed to get quite a few contacts with this less-than-optimum arrangement.  If you find an indoor antenna to your liking, you may want to look up an interesting an article by Zack Fruhling, KD6DXA, called "How to make an indoor random wire antenna."

As you can imagine, I didn't get many 599 reports (except for statewide contacts).  At the time, a 559 to 579 report was enough to keep my amateur radio interest alive.  I soon discoved the obvious--an outdoor antenna is better than one enclosed room, and an indoor antenna is better than no antenna at all. By November 1977, I retired the old inside-the-house random wire for a small, top loaded vertical helix in the backyard of the teachers' quarters.  I ran 16 radials of varying lengths around the lawn and under the cottage.  This antenna was a lot better than my indoor skyhook, but the bandwidth was quite narrow.  Now I was getting a few 599 reports from the west coast of the U.S. mainland.  As you suspect, I have a preference for cw.  I'm on the radio station microphone 12-hours a day, so I look forward to giving the voice a rest.  Anyway, I later connected a length of 300-ohm television twin lead to the vertical helix and found I could work 40-meters through 10-meters.  Nothing outstanding to be sure.  But I now had an antenna that allowed me to enjoy serveral bands.  Later on, I purchased a few antenna books from the ARRL and the RSGB and started a program of self education on antennas.  Now, there are many antenna modeling  materials that make homebrewing antennas a real treat and a real time saver.

The whole point of this retrospective review of my many antenna blunders and occasional flashes of understanding is to realize that ham opertors learn by doing.  Armed with good theory, basic tools, and a williness to learn, you can accomplish much of what you once thought impossible.  When I first was licensed by in 1977, there were no other hams in my neighborhood, so I read a lot and joined the Big Island Amateur Radio Club, where I found several seasoned hams who were willing to help this rank novice.  Since those early days, I have tried to help as many new operators as I can...afterall, we were all beginners at one time.  Thanks to by background in commercial broadcasting, much of the theory supporting amateur radio  was already known and practiced.  That gave me an edge when it came to advancing up the amateur radio licensing ladder.  By the time I finally, reached Amateur Extra in 2005, I had enough experience to be dangerous.  I spent 15 years as an Advanced Class because of work requirements and a stubborn bit of laziness.  But, that's another tale for another time.  Procrastination can be a real impediment to progress.

In sum, don't ever give up, be it in the amateur radio realm or in your daily life.  Work for a goal whatever your station in life.  As for antennas, build your own if you can.  I get satisfaction from designing and building my own equipment, be it an antenna or a small, low-powered transceiver.  For me, such projects help relieve the stress of a newsroom job and allow me to reconnect with the rest of the world.  Don't be afraid to build a simple vertical or dipole...you may be surprised at the results from both a technical and financial point of view.

Aloha from Hawaii-the Big Island.  KH6JRM.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Simple Antennas for the Hawaii Ham, part 2

'Just a few more thoughts on simple antennas before I shut down the newsroom for the day and head to the qth.  In the previous post, I described an unsophisticated, basic antenna that could get you on the air quickly with a minimum of effort.  You can erect a simple 40-meter dipole with coax feedline in a variety of configurations, ranging from a straight dipole and inverted "vee" to a sloper and a vertical dipole (if you have a tall mast).  This basic antenna will work well on 40-meters and give acceptable service on 15-meters (using the 3rd harmonic of the 40-meter band).  I'm using one these simple inverted "vees" in my backyard and it does well for casual rag chews and interisland service.  My pvc mast is 33' high at the apex and the 33' dipoles go off at an angle, meeting two 5' stakes at either end.  I get reasonable interisland coverage as well as decent DX to the west coast of the U.S. mainland.  I believe there is a degree of  high angle radiation as well, giving me some good local coverage.  My primary NVIS antenna is the 40-meter loop strung under the house, which is elevated approximately 6-feet off the ground on a post and pier system. 

This bare-bones antenna can be pressed into multi-band service if one replaces the coax feed with 40-50 feet of twin lead (either 300 or 450 ohm).  Attach the twin lead to a 4:1 balun (DX Engineering makes several well-built baluns for a variety of applications), run a short length of coax (RG-8, 9913, RG-8X, or even RG-6 with suitable connectors) to your antenna matching device (tuner), and then connect the tuner to your rig.  You may have to experiment with the length of twin lead to keep swr low--I've found any length approaching a  half-wave length for your lowest band will often present loading problems and eratic readings.  The ARRL Antenna Book explains this situation and provides twin lead lengths that will make your tuner happy.  I replaced the RG-8 coax last night in my inverted "vee" and substituted some 450-ohm twin lead for the coax.  I can tune anywhere between 40 and 10 meters with ease.  I suppose there is some radiation from the twin lead, but that doesn't seem to bother the rig or the electronics in my home.  As with my other verticals, I can swivel the pvc mast to ground level, which presents a low profile to the neighbors and reduces the possibility of a lightning strike entering my antenna system.  Swivel systems can be found in the DX Engineering catalog.  This antenna is easy to erect and requiress no radial system.  I've had a difficult time creating a decent radial system, owing to the small size of my backyard.  In a pinch, I've used an elevated counterpoise system with my vertical antennas.  This arrangement works and presents a comfortable load for the tuner, but its performance is lackluster. 

None of these antennas will outperform a beam or a dipole 50' above ground, but they do work.  Considering my space limitations, I'm satisfied with my homebrew inverted 40-meter inverted "vee"-- a simple antenna that gets me on the air and provides hours of enjoyment at a minimal cost. 

Paging through my old antenna and log books, I'm surprised at just how effective these simple antennas are.  Of course, propagation plays a huge role.  Nonetheless, I've worked the world with verticals, inverted "vees", and loops.  You can do it as well.  For those of us on restricted budgets, a vertical made from locally obtainable resources could keep "you in the game."

May your log be filled with DX.  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Amateur Radio on Hawaii-the Big Island

Over the past few days, I've been reviewing some of my old antenna notes.  Like the late Lew McCoy, I keep most of my ideas in an antenna notebook for future reference.  Any notebook will do, as long as you keep yourself organized and have sufficient room for drawings, meter readings, and other perameters.  Although there are many good, inexpensive antenna design programs, I prefer the old style of jotting down thoughts in a notebook.  I'm not a technophobe, but after immersing myself in the latest digital, whizz-bang equipment and programs at the radio station, I just feel the need to retreat to a simpler time as far as amateur radio is concerned.  Anyway, I've accumulated 20 or more student composition notebooks full of radio ideas, failed experiments, and occasional successes.  Some of my early antenna designs were quite pathetic, but that's how one learns.

While I was going through a notebook dated October 1976, I came across a very simple 40-meter antenna that has served me well over the years.  Nothing can beat a 1/2 dipole fed with RG-8, RG-58 (if that's all you have), and even RG-6.  Get that dipole up as high as you can, trim for lowest swr, and feed the skyhook with 50 watts or so.  Depending on the time of day, band of choice, and propagation, you should be able to work many stations.  If you prefer 40-meters, just measure out 65' of whatever wire you have (I prefer #14 gauge, but use what you have available),  cut two segments of 32', 6" each, attach and weather proof your coax connection.  The antenna will do a satisfactory job on 40-meters and will probably be useable on 15-meters.  You may have to attach some "outrigger" wires with clips to make the antenna more workable on 15-meters.  This is about as basic as it gets for a functional antenna.  If you have space problems like I do (very small backyard), you can make an inverted "vee" dipole by using a 30-35' pvc mast.  The dipole will perform a bit better than the "vee", but the vee only needs one support.  I'm using the vee now, and I find it satisfactory for my needs.

In future posts, I will review some of the antennas that have proven successful in my restricted circumstances.  Meanwhile, it's back to work.  Have a great day and get on the air.  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Amateur Radio on Hawaii Island

What a busy weekend!  Thanks to some excellent weather, Hawaii Island residents were able to select a range of community events to spend with their families. Our radio station covered a bunch of events, ranging from the Hawaii Island outrigger canoe paddling championships to the July Points meet at the Hilo Drag Strip.  The weather has improved considerably since late June, when most of us on "the rock" thought the seasons had been reversed.  Usually, our rainy season runs from November to April with generally clear, warm weather balancing out the remainder of the year.  However, this year, rainy conditions extended into June.  The rain was welcome, since most of the island has been griped in an extended drought that began almost two years ago.  There has been rain, but not enough to keep pastures green and crops growing.  Even Hilo, which normally gets around 120-130 inches of rain per year, has received only about 40 inches so far, about 20 incles below normal.  Since many rural residents rely on catchment systems or private wells, any shortage that leaves tanks below half-full is call for concern.   Those of us living on former sugar plantation lands with built in  water systems (reservoirs, installed pipes, and distribution systems) fare a little better.  Of course, our weather problems are minor compared to the heat wave that is baking the nation's mid-west and south-west.  I guess we islanders should count our blessings.  There's nothing quite like a partly sunny day with 10-15 mph trade winds and a temperature hovering around 75-80 degrees.

The favorable weather gave me a few hours to repair antennas in the back yard.  The effects of salt air, wind, and sunlight are noticeable after a few weeks on any antenna structure on Hawaii Island, be it our station's towers or my own modest 40-meter vertical.  Maintenace and repair are constants in this paradise graced by storms and volcanic eruptions.  Volcanic haze (vog) is especially corrosive on metal surfaces.  The Kilauea Volcano has been active since 1983.  The output of this formation has dumped millions of tons of sulphur dioxide into the atmosphere.  Once the gases combine with moisture, one sees the formation of sulphuric acid and other compounds which can damage crops, buildings, car metal, and even antennas.  The weekly wash and wax routince for the van is one of those tasks that must be done.

So far, I've been able to keep ahead of the corrosion attacking the "antenna farm".  Thanks to coax-seal, enclosed plastic containers, and other weather-proofing techniques antenna maintenance isn't a big chore.  As for the various rigs that launch my mighty 10 watts into the either, I always keep them covered after operating--this step keeps most of the dust and air-borne pollutants away from swithches, dials, and relays.    Hawaii hams residing near the shore experience more corrosion problems than those of us above the 1,200 level.  The corrosion problem is especially acute for our local power utility (Hawaii Electric Light Company).  Company crews have line maintenance and replacement schedules in effect that keep most problems to a minimum.  Of course, unexpected events such as auto accidents, lightning, and termite damage can down a pole at any time.  So, brownouts and power losses are always players in keeping the QTH supplied with electricity.  Rather than depend on commercial power for my amateur radio activities, I've opted for deep cycle marine batteries charged by solar panels.  I also have a standby generator in case I need to power something in the house or run higher power.

Amateur Radio in the rural areas of Hawaii presents a challenge, but one that usually ends positively if alternate power sources are incorporated into the station arrangement.
I keep my system simple--easy to build antennas, reliable rigs, and modest power demands.  Your mileage may vary--one should do as much with their amateur radio interests as finances allow.  For me, resources are limited, so I resort to what I have available for my various projects.  You'd be surprised what the local hardware or automotive supply store can offer for the radio amateur.  If one is creative and watches the expenses,  amateur radio can be enjoyed without breaking the family budget.

Have a good week and get on the air--no matter how humble your station is.  The object is to have some relaxing fun amidst the turmoil of this uncertain decade.  Of course, you may have a lot more fun with a 100-foot tower, a four-element mono beam for 20-meters, and an Alpha amplifier.  One can dream.  Now, if I could only get a federal "stimulus" package to fund my amateur radio fantasies,  I would have nothing to complain about.  Alas, reality for me is a Kenwood 520 (plus other old rigs), an ancient J-38 key, and an ultra simple and cheap 40-meter vertical.    Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Another exciting news day is coming to a close.  With all the stories about the government possibly defaulting on its massive debt and the potential delay in social security checks, my listeners have kept the telephone lines busy.  Throw in a few stories about local environmental and redistricting problems (spawned by the requirements of the 2010 census) and the usual lines about how Hawaii's state government must increase taxes to make ends meet and one gets an exciting week from the news room.  All of the hype, fear, and misinformation surrounding these issues makes me look forward to a relaxed few hours at the old Swan 100 MX or Kenwood 520.  Solutions to the above problems are not impossible--all it takes is for politicians to act like responsible adults and put the interests of the nation first.  I suppose that's asking too much from those who have lost what it means to be a "public servant."  At least in the amateur radio realm, one can always turn the dial to avoid the occasional nasty or negative personality.  Oh, that real life were that simple.

Because of work requirements, I didn't get to do much on the recently completed IARU HF championships.  Propagation during my off hours wasn't too good from my Hamakua Coast location.  Nonetheless, I found the bands fairly active, eventhough my 10-watt signal didn't make much of an impact.  I still had fun and managed to get a few relaxing hours at the trusty old Yaesu FT-7.  My battery-solar power charging system performed well and the inverted "vee" seemed to "hear" signals well despite some QSB and QRN.  I hope your station did well.

This weekend will be a mixed package, since I'm  slated to announce at the July Points Meet at the Hilo Drag Strip.  Most of my operating will be done as time allows.  That's the nature of the radio business.  There are no breaks unless the job is done, however long it takes.  At least my work is rarely dull.  There's always something to keep me busy. 

I trust your upcoming weekend will be positive and challenging from an amateur radio point of view.  'Till next time...Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.

Friday, July 8, 2011

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Have you recovered from the extended 4th of July holiday?  I think I'm on the road to recovery after a little too much to eat and drink.  In my "golden" years, I find it harder to snap back from the indulgences of youth.  I behaved myself most of the time, since the 4th was a normal workday for those of us in the radio news business.  I was able to take in the festivities along the Hilo bayfront, where Hawaii County had organized a family fun day with a classic auto show, games for the family, a wide selection of ethnic foods, and patriotic displays.  The Lehua Jaycees rounded out the evening with their traditional fireworks show.  I didn't stay for that display because of my early morning news shift.  There won't be much to do in the amateur radio realm until tomorrow (Saturday) when I can leave the news room around noon.  There is never an dull or idle moment around here.  About the only major attraction this week for Hawaii Island residents  will be the Moku O Hawaii outrigger canoe races.  The county canoe racing championships will be held 16 July. The entire staff will be busy that day, with yours truly announcing the July Points Meet at the Hilo Drag Strip, while other staff members handle the canoe racing events. 

There will be plenty to do for amateur radio operators this weekend with the FISTS Summer Sprint taking place on 09 July and the IARU HF World Championship being held on 09 July and 10 July.  Depending on propagation, I just might jump in and get another lesson about erecting a decent antenna.  My modest inverted "vee" and the 10 watt output of my Yaesu FT-7 probably won't make a big splash in the contest, but one never knows.

Speaking of antennas, the 06 July 2011 edition of eham.net has an interesting, sharply focused antenna article by Bob Raynor, N4JTE.  His article "Antenna Myths" does a decent job of dismissing the hype and often misleading details surrounding antenna traditions.  Bob puts a lot of emphasis on building your own antennas, careful modeling, and empirical results.  Many of our favorite skyhooks, such as verticals, low slung loops, and inverted "vees" have serious flaws, but, even these shortcomings can be minimized by careful construction, reducing feedline loses, and adequate height.  Bob feels the most important dimension of antenna design is to make a system that performs consistently for your location.  And for those of us restricted by space or invasive CC &Rs, an antenna that gives useful results at a modest cost is paramont.  Like many of you, I've been forced by circumstances (small lot and peering, suspicious neighbors) to use the simplest of antennas--stealthy verticals, under-the-house loops, and disguised long wires.  Despite the limitations imposed by space, I've been able to have many contacts.  My station will not bust the DX pileup encountered in this weekend's IARU HF championship, but I may be able to sneak in my call sign every now and then.  Hunt and pounce works for me.  Besides, I don't care about the score.  Getting on the air and having fun will be my reward.  So, Bob's article is a good, basic refresher on what is true and not so true about antennas.  He writes well and provides some useful information. 

I hope your weekend is productive, fun, and challenging.  I must be insane to enter the championships with only 10 watts and an inverted "vee".  This only confirms the suspicions of my neighbors that a radio "nut" lives next door.   My XYL has given up.  I've assured her that the amateur radio disease isn't terminal.  This type of contest fever occurs infrequently.  And yes, I've promised to take the garbage to the recyling center and help with the laundry.  She has the patience of a saint.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

The Fourth of July is fast upon us--a time of backyard barbeques, a little too much beer, good fellowship, and the celebration of our nation's independence.  The radio station staff is engaged fully in the weekend activities.  There are several parades, rodeos, community block parties, and county celebrations to keep all of us broadcast types busy.   The weather looks promising with only a few morning and evening showers to dampen the enthusiasm.  The holiday will give the news staff (only yours truly) a chance to get out of the normal "doom and gloom" news cycle and have some fun with the local community.  The weekend will provide a necessary boost to my spirits.  There is only so much negative news I can take.  So, I'll take in the antique car show, cover a few parades, and eat too many hot dogs....it's tradition.  On Tuesday, I'll increase the pace of my physical fitness program to burn off those calories accumulated over the past few days.  I'm sure my better half will insist we add another mile or two to our usual daily walk of 3-4 miles.  I know she's right.  She can eat anything and doesn't seem to add an ounce.  I, on the other hand, will gain a pound just by looking at a sugar doughnut.  Life isn't fair.  So, once the holiday is over, it's back to the daily exercise routine.

I should have most of Sunday off, an ideal time to do the usual household errands of shopping, dumping the garbage, and minor repairs to the homestead.  I've dedicated a few hours to amateur radio during the holiday weekend, most likely involved in a few ragchews and other casual operating.  There are several contests in the mix, too.  If the bands get too crowded, I'll be building a few antennas for portable use.

My homebrewed inverted "vee" is working well.  I'll be using this easily erected skyhook until I can rework my haphazard radial system under the old vertical near the corner of my lot.  The under the house 40-meter loop is a good reserve antenna--it does an excellent job on the local state nets.  As a NVIS antenna, it does well and is very quiet.  Most of the time the loop is attached to my old Hallicrafter SX-62A receiver.  That old rig sounds pretty good through a decent speaker...nothing like a pair of 6V6 tubes for good audio.

Another project in the works is the installation of an HF rig in the Honda Odyssey van.  That job will take some thought.  For 2-meter work, I use a 18" mag mounted whip with coax slipped through a side window to a Kenwood HT near the driver's seat.  The arrangement is fairly crude, but it works and is easily removed when I leave the van.  The HF set up will require more planning.  Antenna size and placement will be a major hurdle.  Most likely, I'll refer to some of the excellent antenna suggestions from Alan, K0BG.  He has a lot of experience in mobile installations and seems willing to share his knowledge with those of us who are technically challenged (that includes me).  Alan has an excellent web site.

So, I have enough projects to keep me busy for a few weeks.  Between my job at the radio station and my duties at home, I have a full life.  Things could be a lot better, of course.  I keep saving for the Elecraft K3 and for the materials needed for a 40-meter rhombic.  The rig is possible, but the rhombic will have to wait 'til the XYL and I move to a larger lot.  So many attractions, so little time.  At least I'm not bored.  One must keep active, mentally and physically.  As for the world situation, there's not much I can do about that--there have always been fools driven by power, greed, and malicious intent since time began.  No culture has been exempt from human frailty.  About the only thing I can do these days is to act responsibly, stay out of debt (easier said than done), and treat others with respect.  I try to avoid quarrelsome persons and those bent on making life unpleasant for everyone else.  This task is fairly easy on the amateur radio bands--just turn the dial.  In real life, the job is more complicated.  I've learned to handle crank telephone calls and various personalities encountered in the performance of my news duties.  One of these days, I'll recount some of my more interesting encounters with those who feel they are the universe's gift to humanity.  All told, I'd rather be doing radio (broadcasting and amateur) than matching wits with the clueless.

Enough soapbox philosophy for now....I know--if I'm so smart, what am I doing in the radio business?  Have a good, safe holiday.  Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM.