Thursday, August 9, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post #182

Stealth and hidden antennas

One of my favorite interests within the Amateur Radio hobby is hidden, disguised, and "stealth" antennas.  I'm amazed at the creative ways amateur radio operators stay on the air despite severe space limitations, restrictive housing regulations, and proximity to power lines.  I'm one of the lucky ones--I do have a backyard.  It's small, but it does allow me to keep most of my HF and VHF antennas outside.  I'm always a little uneasy about using indoor antennas.  There are interference and rf exposure issues indoors which are sometime difficult to solve.

Whenever I feel the need to design a concealed antenna, I often refer to the work of Simone, IW5EDI, an Italian ham residing in the beautiful city of Florence.  Ham radio aside, Florence is a true wonder of the world.  I was in that city many years ago and was impressed with its cultural and historical background, parks, and natural surroundings.  Simone has writen a series of articles on stealth antennas that may give you some ideas on how to get on the air without annoying neighbors or homeowner associations (HOAs).

Simone lives in a third floor apartment which leaves him little room to erect a full-sized antenna for 40 meters.  However, by using an AEA magnetic loop antenna (MFJ sells a similar model) and a ham stick vertical with a tuned counterpoise, Simone is able to pursue his amateur radio interests without drawing attention to his station.  In a series of photographs, Simone shows how well the magnetic loop blends in with the furniture of his patio.  His 40-meter hamstick antenna is bundled with a bunch of fishing poles in the corner of his patio, with a counterpoise wire running through his apartment.  He tunes the ham stick with a wire tuner.  From the street below, one can't tell there are two HF antennas in his apartment.

Although my space problems are not as bad as Simone's, I've lived in places where the backyard is virtually non-existant and the neighbor's apartments are just a few feet away.  I'm blessed with good neighbors who don't seem to mind my homebrew vertical and delta loop in the backyard.  When I'm not operating, these antennas are nested to the ground, both for reducing the environmental footprint and for lessening the chance of a lightning strike.

Apparently, Simone has made antenna concealment an art.  He has submitted several articles to the "dxZone" website describing several vertical, loop, and dipole antennas he has designed and built.  In the use of stealth antennas, Simone says it's best to keep quiet about your antenna projects because "you can get blammed for every TVI, RFI, (and) interference incident in the neighborhood...'loose lips sink ships.'".

For more articles by IW5EDI, visit http://www.iw5edi.com.

That's all for now from this side of the Central Pacific.  Have an excellent day!

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post #181

A small loop antenna for limited space--the MFJ-1788 Super Hi-Q magnetic loop.

I'm a huge fan of loops.  They are quiet and can be hidden if creatively designed.  These antennas can be fed with either coaxial cable, ladder line, or ordinary 300-ohm television twin lead for a simple, effective antenna.  Loops do have their drawbacks.  A full-size 40-meter loop can be large--with a total length of approximately 141 feet.  In my situation, a large full-wave 40-meter loop fits under my house which is raised off the ground by pier and post construction.  A 20-meter full-wave loop is fastened under my garage roof.  Both of these antennas are invisible from the street or from nearby neighbors.  Since these loops are fairly low to the ground, they serve as NVIS (near vertical incident skywave) antennas, which give me strong signals out to 200 to 300 miles.  That range is perfect for afternoon nets and local emergency work.  The 40-meter loop is fed with 450-ohm ladder line and can work all bands from 40 to 10 meters.

But what can you do if a large loop isn't feasible for your situation or your backyard doesn't have sufficient space for a vertical with a suitable radial field?  MFJ Enterprises has manufactured a magnetic loop that can fit on a porch (lanai in Hawaii) or squeezed into a small spot in your backyard.  The MFJ-1788 Super Q magnetic loop antenna is rather expensive and a bit difficult to tune, but it may provide another way for you to get on the air.

In the 07 August 2012 issue of eham.net (http://www.eham.com), there is a review of the MFJ-1788, which can work from 40 to 10 meters.  A similar loop works 30 to 10 meters.  According to the amateurs who have used this loop, the antenna's performance is slightly less than an inverted vee or vertical.  Amateur radio operators reviewing the antenna fault MFJ for several quality control issues, which can be easily corrected with some basic tools.  The overall rating of the MFJ was 4.1 on a 5-point scale.  As N3OV states in the article, the MFJ-1788 is "expensive" ($429.95 USD) but  "not a bad package" for those who need an antenna with a small environmental footprint.  Although the MFJ-1788 is described by N3OV as "a bit of a chore to use" it does produce solid contacts.

Although I prefer homebrew wire antennas, I can see where this MFJ product could be useful in a limited space environment or for emergency use.  You may want to consider this product if your operating circumstances permit no other kind of HF antenna.  In the past, "QST" has published several articles on magnetic loop antennas.  A check in the magazine's on-line index should give you plenty of ideas should you choose to "roll your own."

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Monday, August 6, 2012

Mars and beyond--some random thoughts for Amateur Radio Operators

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post #180

Mars and beyond--some random thoughts about the Red Planet.

I was truly astounded as I watched the descent and successful landing of the "Curiosity" Mars Rover on Sunday evening, 1938 hrs local Hawaii Standard Time.  Of course, some of this was computer animation, but when those first grainy, black and white 64 X 64 pixel landing shots were received, all of the animation made sense.  The sophisticated cable release system did its job as the one-ton vehicle reached its intended landing zone.  Now, the testing and hard work begin.  As a sidenote, one of the 2004 rovers is still performing some of its mission, eventhough one of its wheels is stuck in sand.  It is continuing to send photographs of its surrounding environment despite the harsh martian conditions.  The American taxpayer has surely gotten a good return on those two earlier vehicles, as well as the intial data bank sent back by the two Viking landers in the 1970s. 

Speaking of survival in space, how about the Voyager 1 and Voyager 2 spacecraft?  Both of them are penetrating the perimeter of the heliosphere of our solar system and are ready to enter "deep space".  The RTGs aboard these craft are still working, albeit in a reduced fashion.  Pretty impressive work for a set of machines launched more than 38 years ago.  These craft are expected to send usable data from the edge of our universe for the next few years.

All of this takes me back to 1957, when as an impressionable 13-year old, I listened to the "beep, beep" of the first earth satellite--the soviet built "Sputnik".  I was visiting an amateur radio operator across the street one day after school when I heard him tune in the 20 mc (megacycles in those days) signal on his Collins receiver.  From that day forward, I was hooked on ham radio, shortwave listening, and all things electronic.  Although it took me many years to get my amateur radio license, that experience with "Sputnik" plus my work in the Air Force and engineering tasks  at several broadcast stations finally convinced me to take my code and theory test in 1976.  Back then, sending and receiving morse code were still requirements for amateur radio licenses.  Through the years, I've  held the entire range of amateur licenses--novice, technician, general, advanced, and finally amateur extra class. 

I suppose I wasn't the first kid to have been inspired by "Sputnik", "Vanguard", "Explorer I", and all the other early orbiters, but I felt the urge to learn more about the world of rf and the possibility of reaching new worlds.  While I lacked the imagination of the great science fiction writers such as Asimov, Clarke, and Bradbury, I could see life slowly imitating art as humanity pushed back the horizon of knowledge. 

And, now, here we are on the brink of new discoveries.  Many amateur radio operators have contributed to the fields of radio astronomy, deep space exploration, and communications.  I'm proud to be a part of this scientific community, although my contributions to the radio art are insignificant when they are compared the early pioneers of radio and the modern-day practitioners of the space sciences.  I wonder what Tesla, Marconi, or Popov would say if they witnessed what I saw on Sunday. 

So, as I design,build, and erect my homebrew antennas and squeeze the last electron from my aging equipment, I feel a distant kinship with the radio pioneers that went before me.  There's something "magical" and almost profound in sending out a signal and seeing what comes back.  Perhaps in the not too distant future, we earthlings will be able to bring up a repeater orbiting Mars and talk with the new "Martians" who have ventured far from home to seek the cosmos.  Ray Bradbury's "Martian Chronicles" may just happen...some of us may be around to hear that first qso.  That's when my mind drifts back to 1957 and hears the faint voice of man's first venture into space.  It's been a long journey from spark to space.  Who knows what will happen next?  This could be interesting.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Friday, August 3, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post #179

Portable antennas for the unexpected

I've made it a habit over the past few years to keep an emergency "go" kit in my van in case I'm needed to provide communications backup for our local civil defense agency and the Hilo office of the American Red Cross.  Other than the 11 March 2011 tsunami (the one that damaged Japan and its Fukushima nuclear reactor), I haven't used my portable equipment that much, except for weekend operations in a local park or beach area.  When I worked at Pacific Radio Group, I kept an old Kenwood TS-520 and a Kenwood HT at the station for emergency backup to the Hawaii County Civil Defense office in Hilo.  But, since I retired, my forays into portable operation have been subject to personal whim or to opportunities I get handed to me.

Such is the case this weekend, where I revert to my 22nd year as the tower announcer for the Big Island Auto Club's monthly points meets.  I'm under contract to provide weekend drag race coverage for my former employer, as well as coverage during primary and general elections.  The work is part-time, which suits me fine.

Anyway, the track manager and I usually arrive at the track at around 0500 W to help the maintenance crew prepare the track for the races, which begin around 1100 W.  Since my work in the tower is fairly basic (turn on the generator, hook up the race computers, test the timing lights, and make sure track HTs are charged and working), I usually have a few hours of free time to explore amateur radio in a quiet zone just outside of Hilo town.  There are no power lines near the track, so all track power is produced locally by a state of the art diesal generator.  The track is very  quiet radio-wise until the race cars arrive--then you must put on ear protection to ward off the din of noise associated with drag racing.

As I've done in past races, I usually set up a mobile antenna on an adjoining chain link fence, run out several radials, and connect the arrangement to my trusty Drake MN-4 tuner with about 50-feet of 450-ohm ladder line.  Currently, I'm using a 54-inch Hustler mast with 40 and 20 meter loading coils.  The low-power Yaesu FT-7 provides the signal.  The early morning conditions shortly before sunrise are quite good on 40 meters.

When the track closes down after sunset, the clean up and lockdown of the track begins.  This task takes about two hours, depending on whether oil has spilled on the track or lights/sensors have to be repaired.  Tower clean up takes only about 30 minutes--mostly disconnecting computers and securing timing equipment in a secure area.  That gives me around 1.5 hours to have some fun on 40 and 20 meters shortly after sundown.  Once again, the same arrangement is used.  Results have been good on most race nights.  This schedule also gives me time to check out weak links in my own equipment and to improve the antennas.

Some of my fellow race fans have expressed interest in amateur radio after they see the system I bring with me on race days.  Perhaps, I'm having a good influence afterall.  I'm an old "gearhead" anyway, so any chance I get to combine radio and racing is an open invitation to explore new antennas and create a little "buzz" for amateur radio.

This will be a busy weekend, so it's off to the futon and a few hours of sleep before I drive through the pre-dawn mist to the Hilo Drag Strip.

Have a productive and safe weekend!

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series.

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post #178

Portable antennas

One of the things I like to do when the weather is nice (such as today) is to drive my van up an old sugar plantation road and set up a low-power emergency station at a clearing above Laupahoehoe town.  At an elevation of 1,200 feet on the east slope of Mauna Kea, I have a clear view of the Pacific Ocean off to the northeast and a fairly good shot at Japan over the summit of Hawaii Island's largest mountain.

Once I reach the clearing, I retrieve my homebrew 40-meter helix (see last post), 50-feet of 450-ohm ladder line, a 4:1 balun, the trusty Drake MN-4 tuner, about 10-feet of RG-6 coax, and the venerable Yaesu FT-7 qrp rig, which can be used for both cw and SSB contacts from 80 meters to 10 meters.  The vertical helix is comprised of two, 5-foot schedule 40 pvc pipes, which are joined by a pvc connector.  Sixty-six feet of #22 gauge hookup wire is wound in a spiral to the top of the vertical pole.  A 48-inch "stinger" from an old CB antenna is attached to the spiral to provide some top loading.  At the base of the vertical helix, I attach 8, 33-foot radials to the remaining part of the ladder line.  The radials fan out wherever the geography of the clearing allows.  For a power source I use a deep cycle marine battery and solar cells.  I can run the old Yaesu FT-7 for many hours with the solar array providing a continuous charge to the battery.  I've used automobile batteries in the past, but these batteries are not designed for extended periods of time.  They do work, but they have limitations. 

This arrangement works well and I've enjoyed many hours of low power operation (usually less than 10 watts).  This is the same emergency station I have installed at home.  The "go" kit is portable and can be set up quickly.

I've also used "Ham Stick" antennas with radials attached to achieve some success in stationary portable operations.  I've even resorted to using an old B & W apartment antenna on a picnic table to make enjoyable contacts (mostly cw).  MFJ's model 1622 is a good copy of the B & W design.

My portable station can be stored in the van and is available anytime I'm away from the qth.  Those of you who can't operate a station from your home because of HOAs, CC&Rs, and limited space may want to consider some form of mobile set up for your amateur radio station.  If you are clever, your vehicle might be part of an antenna system you can hook up to your home station.  Of course, this depends on just how nosey your neighbors are.  You can still have an enjoyable amateur radio experience if you let your imagination and creativity take hold of your antenna ideas.  Granted, a tall tower with a 4-element monobander beats anything I might dream up, but you can still run an amateur radio station if you let limitations become possibilities. There are several good books in the marketplace that address stealth and hidden antennas--many of these volumes are published by ARRL, CQ Communications, and the RSGB.  Sometimes, I just enter "stealth antennas" in the Google Search box and see what happens.  Occasionally, you can find some excellent information that can help you get on the air at a modest cost without creating what some neighbors call a "nuisance."

So, investigate the possibilities and take some time to design and build your "stealth" antenna.  You might be surprised at just how good your homebrew skyhook works.  I've built several antennas that have given me hours of enjoyment at almost no cost. 

Until next time,

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post #177

A modified fan dipole

How would you like to make a simple, stealthy, and inexpensive antenna that covers 80 to 10 meters?  All you need is a local hardware store, some connectors, some RG-8 coax, schedule 40 pvc pipe, some copper plumbing straps, a few bungie cords, and about 250-feet of stranded copper wire.

The details of this fascinating skyhook can be found in the 31 July 2012 edition of eham.net (http://www.eham.net).  Howard Gorman, W6HDG, has writen an article entitled "The Fence Fan Dipole (FFD)--A Quick, Easy, and Inexpensive Multiband Antenna."

Howard provides detailed instructions and photographs to guide you in completing this project.  Most of the materials for his antenna came from a local Home Depot store.  Howard used a 12-foot fence around an old tennis court to support a 10-foot schedule 40 pvc pipe and ran antenna elements from a special antenna connector atop the pvc pipe.  He used bungee cords to attach the elements for each band.  The antennal elements also served as guy wires for the pvc pipe.  He fed the antenna with one piece of RG-8 coaxial cable.  Howard's station is modest--a Yaesu FT-857, an Astron 30-amp power supply, and an antenna tuner.

According to Howard, SWR readings for all bands except 15 meters showed SWR at 1.9 or less across each band.  Fifteen meters and portions of 75 meters could be used if an antenna tuner were used to reduce the SWR.

Howard acknowledges the limitations of his creation by noting, "I have no illusions about DX worthiness of this antenna.  The multiband variety of dipole...when well-tuned, should not suffer appreciably in performance over a monoband dipole at similar height.  The advantage of  a single feedline connot be overemphasized."

Despite the limitations of this antenna, it's worth a try, especially if you don't have much real estate to erect antennas.  Howard says the antenna is barely noticeable and blends in well with the environment--something to consider in crowded neighborhoods.  If you follow Howard's instructions and photographs, you should have little difficulty in building and using this antenna.

You can join this blog community by signing up for e-mail notifications or by tapping the blog's RSS feed.

Thank you for joining me today!

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post #176

A compact 40-meter vertical

There are times when a small vertical comes in handy.  You could be in a space restricted environment such as I where neighbors are almost back to back or you could be looking for an easily portable antenna useful for mini-DXpeditions or a casual day of operating from a park or beach.  There is a solution to this often vexing problem.

If you have the resources, you may want to consider screwdriver antennas, adaptations of various mobile antennas (ham stick), or event the handy Buddipole sytem.  But if you're on a restricted budget and willing to "roll your own", you can find all the materials you need at the nearest hardware store.

What I wanted to build was as a top-loaded "vertical helix" that could be erected in my backyard and easily hidden by bushes and trees bordering my qth.  Based on various readings in antenna literature, I found that if you wound a half-wave length of ordinary AWG #22 gauge hook up wire in a spiral along a pvc or wooden pole, the antenna would behave as a quarter-wave vertical for your chosen frequency.  As in any vertical, a good ground system would be needed.  In my case, I had a 10-foot piece of schedule 40 pvc pipe (2" diameter) under the house which could be used to wrap the wire.  For my 40-meter helix, I wound 66-feet of #22 wire along the length of the pipe and attached a 4-foot piece of an old CB antenna to the spiral to provide a bit of top-loading.  At the bottom of the pvc pipe, I attached one lead of some 450-ohm twin lead to the spiral or helix and connected the other part of the twin lead to 4, 33-foot radials.  The twin lead ran into a W9INN 4:1 balun, which was attached to approximately 25 feet of RG-6 coax (that's what I had in my storage box).  The coax was attached to the Drake MN-4 tuner, which was connected by a short piece of coax to the Swan 100-MX.

I adjusted the old Swan transceiver to 7.040 Khz, checked out the signal on the dummy load, used the Drake MN-4 to reduce the swr, and fired off a CQ.  Everything seemed to work alright, although the bandwidth was quite narrow.  From everything I've read about HF vertical helices, the impedance of the antenna is around 5 ohms, so this mismatch may preclude the use of coax for multi-band use.  The antenna works on 40, 20, 15, and 10 meters.  Performance does not match what I get from a dipole or inverted "vee".  But, with ladderline, I can get contacts on those bands, usually a s-unit below what I get on the dipole.  Your results may very, depending on the number of radials you use and the proximity to nearby objects.  As you may have guessed, this system is quite primitive and can use improvement.  The good thing about this antenna is that it's easy to build and easily hidden.  I plan to attach a better ground system when the weather improves.  I can break up the pvc support pipe into two, 5-foot sections, which fit comfortably into my van for portable use.

Now that my vacationing neighbors are scheduled to return on 31 July, it's time to take down by temporary 40-meter "long wire" (see last post).  This distant cousin of an off-center-fed dipole did fairly well under marginal propagation conditions.  I will roll up the longer 100-foot and shorter 35-foot sections and put them back in the storage chest.

I trust that your weekend was pleasant and that you had some time to work with homebrew antennas--that's half the fun of amateur radio.

Until next time,

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Friday, July 27, 2012

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series.

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post #175

A "long wire" antenna

One of the joys of being an amateur radio operator is the creation of antennas.  Since I live on a restricted lot surrounded by neighbors and high power distribution lines from the local utility, I have to be creative if I want to get on the air.  Like many of you, I've had to live with compromise antennas most of my amateur "career".  Sometimes, opportunities come along that just beg for experimentation. 

Such was the case today, when several of my neighbors mentioned they would be visiting relatives for several days.  Since my teaching assignments won't begin until 01 August (or later, if you are a substitute teacher such as I), I offered to keep on eye on their homes until they returned.

Goody!  There are several 30 to 50-foot trees in back of my house on my neighbor's property that just call out for antenna use.  Oh, well, that must be my imagination.  Anyway, I decided to string up a full-wave 40-meter "long wire" through the trees and tie off the end on a fence post about 100-feet from my qth.  So, using a big slingshot, some fishing line, and a 6-ounce fishing sinker, I launched this skyhook through the trees and tied off the end on the distant post.  Using the top of a spare 32-foot fiberglass pole as the first support, the antenna was run out about 100-feet throught the trees, with about 35-feet running off at a 45-degree angle as a counterpoise.  I attached about 40-feet of 450-ohm twin lead to the top of the fiberglass pole, with one wire soldered to the 100-foot of wire and the other lead soldered to the 35-foot counterpoise.  The antenna resembles a lazy inverted "L".

The twin lead goes into a 4:1 W9INN balun.  Twenty feet of RG-6 (with suitable connectors) goes to the Drake MN-4.  Three feet of RG-6 attached the tuner to the Swan 100-MX.  The antenna can be tuned from 40 to 10 meters without upsetting the old Drake or the venerable Swan.  I also have an 8-foot copper ground rod outside of the shack which is attached to two 33-foot counterpoise wires running around the property.  The antenna works fairly well, especially since the longer portion of the wire is pointed NNE--that puts most of my signal into the Pacific Northwest of the U.S. mainland.  Reports on cw run between 569 and 589 with 20 watts from the Swan 100-MX.  After Sunday, I'll have to take the antenna down.  The neighbors are due back on Monday.  In the meantime, I'm having fun.  Once Monday arrives, I'll return to the inverted "vee" and my two loop antennas.  The antenna was fairly cheap, since I used wire and connectors I already had in storage.  Besides, with all the rain our area has been receiving, I needed to take advantage of whatever sun was available.  Antenna erection day (today) was most pleasant--mostly sunny.  I probably shouldn't say much, because I see some evening showers coming towards the Hamakua coast.  Such is life.   Enjoy what you can.

Have a good, productive weekend.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post #174

Antennas and Contests

Amateur Radio Operators will have a lot to do during August.  In the August 2012 edition of "QST", there are at least 33 contests hams can enter.  These contests range from weekly sprints to the ARRL 10 GHz and up Contest.  There is something for everybody in August, even if you aren't an active contester.  I try to jump in on a few contests (mainly cw and SSB) to see just how good by homebrew antennas work.  Sometimes, my great antenna ideas fall flat--they just don't perform the way I want them too.  As always, contests give us antenna experimenters plenty of "rope to hang ourselves."

Now that I've installed my garage roof 20-meter loop, I'm anxious to see how this skyhook performs. If performance is not up to expectations, I'll opt for the 40 to 10 meter inverted vee in the back yard.  That antenna has always done well, propagation permitting, of course.

Among my selected targets will be the North American QSO Party (cw) on 06 August, the Worked All Europe Contest (cw) on 11 August, and the North American QSO Party (SSB) on the 18 August.  Depending on propagation, this could be fun or a real chore.  Over the past few weeks, 20 meters has been fair to poor in the central Pacific.  Of course, my timing may be wrong, too.  I've had to take care of a few teaching matters during the day, so I may have missed some good openings.

As for new antennas, I'm in the process of redoing my indoor 40 to 10 meter antenna.  I'll remove the random wire and counterpoise I installed as an experiment.  The counterpoise was becoming a safety hazard, since it snaked around the floorboards and under the rugs of my qth.  Most likely, I'll restring a 70-foot loop on the ceilings and feed it with a balun and the Drake MN-4 tuner.  That system worked well a few months ago.  As before, I will run mostly cw and SSB at 10 watts or less to reduce rfi and rf exposure. 

Have a good day and get on the air.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Monday, July 23, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post #173

Friends remembered and a 40-meter vertical for restricted space

This has been a sad week for many amateur radio operators on the Big Island of Hawaii.  Two well-known hams have died and will be missed in our small radio community.

First, Paul Lieb, KH6HME, passed away last week in California.  Paul was best known for his VHF, UHF, and SHF beacons atop Mauna Loa on the Island of Hawaii.  When the tropo was in or a rare ducting across the Pacific Ocean and the U.S. mainland occurred, Paul was on top of the 13,000-foot mountain handling a wave of contacts.  Paul was a friendly guy who always was available to help his community and the Big Island Amateur Radio Club.

Second, Joe Day, NH7LP, died this past Saturday morning following his daily swim in Hilo.  Although he was not too active on the bands, he was always willing to talk "radio" and help others with their licensing efforts.  He remained active on echolink, since he was unable to erect decent antennas at his qth.  He designed and built computers, was knowledgeable in coding, and recently had three books published on Amazon.com.  He pursued the mystery-crime genre after he closed his CPA practice and had plans to go on a major book tour within the continental United States.

I knew both of these gentlemen and considered them close friends.  They will be missed.

Now, on to antennas.  While I was reading about stealth antennas, I came across an article written by Robert Houf, K7ZB, entitled "A 40 meter stealth vertical."  The article, originally published in antennex in 2001, was republished by Simone, IW5EDI in dx.com.  Basically, the antenna was fashioned out of collapseable aluminum tubing about 35-feet long.  The vertical was attached to the patio (or lanai if you're from Hawaii) with a homebrew swivel mount.  He fed the 35-foot tube with RG-8 and had two counterpoise wires leading away from the antenna at an angle of about 145 degrees.  The illustrations in the reprinted article are quite good and give you a thorough description of his building process.  At night, Robert would lower the antenna and lie it flat against the floor of the patio.  His bill of materials should be available at most hardware stores.  The antenna apparently does an excellent job and creates a very small footprint on his property. 

My former vertical antenna was patterned after Robert's, using a 33-foot fiberglass mast to support the wire antenna and one counterpoise running from the base of the antenna.  This antenna worked very well, considering the scarcity of space in my back yard.  And, just like Robert's antenna, my homebrew vertical could be nested to the ground by a homebrew swivel.  If you would prefer a more sturdy swivel mount, consider the various swivels offered by DX Engineering.  These mounts have received good reviews.

Until next time,
Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--Bk29jx15

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post #172

A homebrew 20-meter loop

For the better part of two days (Saturday and Sunday), conditions on 20-meters from the Laupahoehoe qth have been poor.  Apparently, a near class X solar flare from our sun has made severe inroads on HF propagation.  So, once my xyl and yours truly finished our daily routines, I decided to work on my modest "antenna farm" in the backyard.

Although my hastily-built 20-meter delta loop worked fine, it was low enough to cause problems with neighborhood pets, wild pigs (we have many here), assorted birds, and other furry creatures (feral cats, goats, and even a lost cow or two).  Living in an agriculture zone does present certain problems.

I took down the delta loop and looked around for an alternative location--not an easy task on a small lot.  While I was creating my replacement antenna scheme, I glanced at my wooden garage.  It measured 17-feet by 16-feet, if I included the laundry room.  Aha! Why not draft the wooden panels beneath the roof for an antenna support?  The roof was 10-feet above ground level--not ideal, but it could work.  I measured and cut a loop of 66-feet for the antenna, using AWG #22 gauge hookup wire I found in my junk box.  At 66-feet, the loop would be about 3-feet short according to formulas found in several antenna books.  However, my Drake MN-4 would be up to the task if I used 450-ohm ladder line and a 4:1 balun. 

After I tacked the loop onto the roof boards of the garage, I ran 20-feet of ladder line to the balun and then used 10-feet of RG-6 coax to connect the MN-4.  Three feet of RG-6 cable attached the system to the Swan MX-100.  I used RG-6 (with suitable connectors), because that's what I had on hand.  Wonder of wonders, the loop worked.  The swr is a little high on the lower portion of the band (antenna is a bit short), but the SSB part of the band can be managed nicely.  I expect to add 3-feet of wire to the loop so I can reach the bottom portion of the band without creating distress for the Drake MN-4.  Under the current configuration, the tuner doesn't get hot or arc-over.  Presently, I running about 20-watts output on SSB and CW.

Best of all, the loop is invisible to passers by.  I can use the loop on 20, 15, and 10 meters.  Like my other loop (the full-wave 40-meter loop under the house), the antenna is quiet and unobtrusive.  So far, I've made only local contacts in Hawaii.  Once conditions improve, I'll give the antenna a few more tests.  This is not an ideal antenna, but it works and blends it the environment.

The 40-meter inverted vee along the mountain side of the qth continues to perform well.  The antenna is presently nested to the ground because of a few thunderstorms last night.

Until next time,

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series.

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post #171

ANOTHER APARTMENT ANTENNA

Thanks to some good weather today, I was able to get out of the house and work on my modest antenna farm in the backyard.  In my last post, I described a hastily built 20-meter delta loop fed by RG-6 coax.  The loop is working fine and I plan to keep it up for awhile.  Later, I will connect the loop to my station with 450-ohm ladder line, so I can use the antenna for 15 and 10 meters.

After that small antenna project, I was once again on the lookout for other simple antennas that even I could build.  It's true...I'm not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to building things, but I do better with each new project.  My fingers have solder burns to prove it!   Anyway, I wanted to improve my emergency indoor antenna without creating problems with RF emissions or TVI.  As I was searching antennas through the internet, I came across an article by Zachary Flemming entitled "How to make an indoor random antenna."  At the time of the article (06 January 2010), Flemming was a PhD candidate at the University of California, Santa Cruz and had apparently devised an antenna that gave him many contacts over the years from his small apartment.

Basically, Flemming ran 50-feet of Radio Shack wire around the ceilings of his apartment and fed the antenna into a RBA 1:1 balun attached to a LDG Z-100 automatic tuner.  He didn't say if a counterpoise was used.  Without a counterpoise, that antenna would "bite" a bit when you used a microphone.  Anyway, assuming he had a decent ground and a working counterpoise, the arrangement proved to be quiet effective in pulling in contacts. 

Here is his list of materials:

50 feet of wire, pushpins to hold up the wire along the ceiling, automatic antenna tuner (LDG Z-100 or equivalent), RBA 1:1 balun, short pieces of RG-8 or RG-58 to connect the transceiver to the antenna and tuner, and a low pass filter to reduce TVI.

Flemming advises those who wish to duplicate his success to run low power (below 100 watts), use digital modes (including cw), and reduce RF exposure and electronic interferrance (TVI) with low pass filters.

As an experiment, I made a similar antenna using 50-feet of wire with one end of some RG-6 coax connected to the wire and the other end of the coax connected to a counterpoise of 50-feet, which snaked along the floor panels and rugs in the qth.  I had an old 1:1 balun in the junk box which I interspaced between the coax and the Drake MN-4 tuner.  I had no RF feedback or "bite" when I used the microphone.  I also had my station ground connected to an 8-foot ground rod outside of the bedroom window.  The indoor antenna worked pretty well, as I received 569 to 579 reports on bands between 40 and 15 meters.  My trusty Yaesu FT-7 with its 10 watt output provide the RF source. 

Perhaps you can use Flemming's original idea for your apartment.  The antenna works given its limitations.  The important thing is getting on the air safely.

Until next time,

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post # 170

A Simple 20-meter loop antenna

I've always had a fascination with full-wave loop antennas for the amateur radio bands.  While loops take up a lot of space, they are easy to make and generally quieter antennas than verticals.  Most of the materials for loop antennas can be found at your nearest hardware store or in your garage.  If you're a radio packrat such as I, you probably have extra wire and coax stashed somewhere near your shack. 

While there was a break in the rain showers that have soaked Hawaii Island for the past few days, I ventured into my flooded backyard to examine my antennas for signs of damage or loose connections.  Apparently, a tree branch struck the 20-meter vertical dipole in back of the garage, necessitating lowering of the fiberglass mast and the removal of the wire elements.  I decided to restring the 20-meter antenna as a full-wave loop fed by approximately 40 feet of RG-6 coax.  I cut three, 23-foot lengths of AWG 22 gauge wire from a stock of wire in the garage to form a loop.  I made the loop slightly larger than the normal 66-feet for a full-wave 20-meter antenna.  I attached the wire to the apex of a 32-foot fiberglass mast and spread out the loop to form a fairly uniform delta shape measuring 23-feet on a side.  I fed the loop at a lower corner and ran the coax into the Drake MN-4 tuner.  The swr was no more than 1.5 to 1, a mismatch easily handled by the tuner.  Once the antenna was attached to a HI-QUE dipole connector and weatherized with tape and several layers of old plastic shopping bags, I had a good temporary 20-meter antenna for my afternoon contacts.  I will later replace the RG-6 with 450-ohm ladder line and a 4:1 balun in order to operate between 20 and 10 meters.  So far, the improvised delta loop works well and gets me many contacts.  Since I had the materials on hand, I didn't need to buy anything for this project.

My other full-wave loop is cut for 40-meters and is attached to the underside of my house.  The house is about 5-feet off the ground on a post and pier system, so there was plenty of room to lay out the antenna.  The antenna is fed with 450-ohm ladder line and can be used from 40 through 10 meters.  As mentioned in another post, this is my NVIS (near vertical incident skywave) antenna and is used primarily for local nets.  The loop also serves as an antenna for my Hallicrafters SX-62-A general coverage receiver.

There are several sources available that can help you design effective antennas for restricted spaces.  Among them is a site started by Rod Dinkins (AC6V), now a silent key.  You can find many antenna ideas by visiting ac6v.com/antprojects.htm.

Good luck in your antenna design efforts.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post #169

NOVICE ANTENNAS

The remnants of Hurricane Emilia are sweeping Hawaii Island with frequent showers and gusty winds--not the sort of weather conditions I prefer to do antenna maintenance.  So, bowing respectfully to the wiles of Mother Nature, I continued my antenna research via my personal library and notes from years past.

One of my favorite amateur radio magazines besides Radcom (RSGB), QST, and CQ is the quarterly volume issued by the Quarter Century Wireless Association (QCWA Journal).  The magazine features interesting articles about hams who have been licensed 25 years or more and have contributed to the "radio art" in both their professional and personal lives.  The current issue (Summer 2012, Volume 61, Number 2) has several intriguing articles articles including a review of the venerable Barker & Williamson 6100 SSB, AM, and CW 80-10 Meter Transmitter and a continuing series of articles on Amateur Radio Novice Operator history, created by Cliff Chang, PhD, AC6C.

I always like this historical column because it takes me back to the summer of 1977, when I first passed my Novice License test and started my official days as an amateur radio operator.  One of the engineers at the commercial radio station I called my second home came in after my air shift and administered the exam.  After two weeks of anxious waiting, my first ever amateur radio license arrived via mail from the FCC.  Armed with an old Heathkit HW-101, a J-38 key, and a simple 40-meter dipole between two Norfolk pine trees, I was on my way.

Everytime I read the "Novice History" column in the QCWA Journal I return to those days when I thought I knew everything about radio.  The passage of time has taught me that the license was only an introduction to a life time of learning--a process that has never stopped.  In those passing years, I've seen tubes transform into solid state devices and rigs transform from heavy "boat anchors" into highly portable units that can fit in your hand.  About the only thing that hasn't changed so much is the design, building, and erecting of antennas--a skill that many amateurs still practice.  Despite the availability of excellent commercial antennas, many amateurs, including yours truly, prefer to "roll our own."  This perhaps is the lingering legacy of our early days as new operators when there wasn't much money to spend on rigs or antennas.

As I look out the bedroom window facing Mauna Kea and the upland forest, I see a descendant of my original novice dipole stretched between two trees.  This 40-meter skyhook has also been converted into an inverted vee on numerous occasions.  And like my first dipole erected 35 years ago, it does a decent job on the lower 25 kHz of 40-meters.  So, in a sense, part of my novice history continues in the antennas I build and in the old rigs I repair because I'm too cheap to buy the more expensive equipment in the marketplace.  My old Swan 100 MX and an even older Kenwood TS-520 are the mainstays of my station.  An old Yaesu FT-7 goes into the van as part of my "go" kit.  I suppose I'm locked into my past, since I prefer doing my own repairs and modifying my equipment to suit my own needs.  I have nothing against the modern digital transceivers--the newer Icoms, Yaesus, Kenwoods, Elecrafts, and even Ten-Tecs are super rigs.  I just prefer the older stuff.  There is hope, though.  I'm saving up for an Elecraft K3.  At that time, I'll join the 21st century.

Once the rain stops, I'll connect the old Swan to the antenna and pound out some cw until it's time for bed.  It's been a good day to think about my radio past and to plan for my radio future.

Have an excellent day!

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--KK29jx15

Monday, July 16, 2012

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post 167

A MINI-EXPEDITION

I've always wanted to go on one of those heavily funded DX-peditions to some exotic place and be on the receiving end of a DX pileup. I'm sure I could enjoy myself, even after days of stress, QRM, and unforeseen operating problems in some isolated locale.  For now, those fantasies will be explored in the pages of QST or CQ until I become sufficiently rich to afford such a trip.

Meanwhile, many amateur radio operators (including yours truly) will try to live life as it comes and operate whenever circumstances permit.  Such was the case over the past weekend, when I did my regular assignment of being the tower announcer at the monthly drag races held by the Big Island Auto Club.  Unlike past weekend stints at the Hilo Drag Strip, I brought along my HF "Go Kit" and decided to operate at the track before and after the regular races were run.  Since I arrive very early on Saturday and Sunday morning (0500 local time), there was plenty of time to set up the race track computers and hook up the track public announce system.  The auto club also has a part 15 AM station at 1620 kHz to provide continuous coverage in the pit area and the visitor viewing stands.  Under ideal conditions, the little 100 mw station can reach a mile or so before disappearing into the noise.  The track is located about 4 miles east of Hilo in the Panaewa Rain Forest and far away from the interference of power lines and industrial equipment.  So, the area is quiet before race time--ideal conditions for a small qrp operation from my van or the tower itself.

I attached the B & W apartment antenna (MFJ has a model 1622 antenna similar to this) to the tower roof and strung out 4, 33-foot radials.  Once the ladder line was attached to a 4:1 balun and the Drake MN-4 antenna tuner, I was in business.  The venerable Yaesu FT-7 performed will on 10 watts, both on cw and on SSB.  Of course, a more modern rig such as an Icom-703 or one of the Elecraft rigs would allow more flexibility, but I made do with what I had.  I had a lot of fun until I took the arrangement down at 0700 local time.  That's when the drivers and crews began to filter into the race track.  And by 0800 local time, the pit area was full of cars, motorcycles, and trucks ready for two days of pro-gas and E T Bracket Racing. 

With favorable weather, the day passed quickly as a steady stream of vehicles qualified and ran their respective races.  The tower was quite busy keeping track of racers and their times.  By the end of the day (around 1800 local time), I was ready to secure the tower and equipment until Sunday morning.  I did a bit of operating from 1900 to 2100 hours local time before the track manager and I closed the facility for the night.

A similar pattern was repeated on Sunday.  All told, I got in about 8 hours of amateur radio operations from my portable system.  Not a lot of contacts, but I did make some interesting qsos with the mainland USA and Japan.  If I do this again, I may just have to print out some special QSL cards.  This was indeed a case of mixing business with pleasure. 

You may want to try a small, mini-expedition this weekend.  Just take one of your transceivers, a portable antenna, a deep cycle marine battery, and a small antenna tuner to the beach or nearest public park.  Set up your equipment, start operating, and have some fun.  Besides, all of this is good practice for times when portable operation is needed for emergencies.

Until next time,
Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Friday, July 13, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

Post 167

INTRIGUING ANTENNAS

Hawaii Island dodged a potentially wet weekend with the passing of tropical depression "Daniel" Thursday evening.  The island is receiving some high surf and a few heavy showers, but that's about all the storm could do.  "Emilia" is still churnging about about 1000 miles to our east, but, it too, is predicted to track south of Hawaii Island.  The hightened alert gave amateur radio operators here a chance to check out their emergency "go" kits and review their own procedures for such continguencies.

While I waited for the bad weather to pass, I found three articles in the 13 July 2012 edition of "e-ham.net" that could provide antenna ideas.

For those amateurs involved in emergency communications, a good NVIS (near vertical incident skywave) antenna is a must for regional HF  operations out to about 300 miles.  Pat Lambert, W0IPI, has published an excellent tutorial on NVIS antennas which are easily built, portable, and easy to maintain.  Pat notes that many amateur radio operators already have a NVIS antenna and don't know it.  All one has to do is lower a 40-meter dipole to 10 or 15 feet to get strong, no fading signals out to about 250-300 miles.  He provides the necessary graphs and test instrument readings to support his designs.  This is a good, informative read.

Next, Cecil, W5DXP, has published approximately 20 antenna ideas that could provide some excitement on your "antenna farm."  What caught my eye was what Cecil called a "no-tuner all-hf band antenna" using ladder line and a 1.1 balun.  The antenna can be either a flat-top dipole measuring 130 feet long at an elevation of 37 feet, fed by 90 to 110 feet of 450-ohm ladder line attached to a 1:1 balun.  He has a smaller design incorporating a flat-top dipole measuring 66 feet at 37 feet, fed by 60 to 90 feet of 450-ohm ladder line.  The ladder line is attached to a 1:1 balun.  Cecil provides extensive photographs, smith charts, and illustrations on how to erect this antenna. 

Finally, for your mobile operators (including me), James Bennett, KA5DVS, has reprinted his popular "Build the PAC-12 Antenna" for portable operations.  The article was published originally in issue #8 of "QRP Homebrew Magazine".  Like the other two articles, James provides an ample amount of pictures, parts lists, and construction techniques for the experimenter.  The antenna is now being marketed as a commercial product by Pacific Antenna (www.pacificantenna.com).  You can also contact the designer by visiting ka5dvs@arrl.net.

That's about all for this week.  Have a good, safe, and productive weekend.  Until next time,
Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog
Post 166

EMERGENCY ANTENNAS

Hurricane season has arrived in the Hawaiian Islands and local civil defense officials are encouraging local residents to prepare for some rough seasonal storms.  In the Central Pacific, hurricane season runs from June to November.  Presently, there are two storms which will impact Hawaii Island--Daniel, now a very wet tropical depression, and Hurricane Emelia, located about 2,000 miles east of Hawaii Island.  Although the storms are predicted to weaken as they pass below Hawaii Island, they will bring heavier than normal rain, gusty winds, and storm surf ranging up to 10 feet in some lowland areas.  This is a challenging time for surfers, who have been warned to stay clear of rough spots, and for local residents, who could lose power and suffer building damage.

With the exception of Hurricane Iniki in 1992 and Hurricane Ewa in 1982, Hawaii has been spared the full force of seasonal hurricanes thanks to the storms entering cooler waters and losing steam through sheer winds.  However, one can't be too careful, especially where tropical storms are concerned.

Local amateur radio operators, the American Red Cross, and local civil defense officials run various drills throughout the year to prepare for such eventualities.  The greatest dangers on Hawaii Island are strong, gusty winds and heavy rains which can collapse utility poles, trees, and other vegetation.  Besides the loss of power, there is the danger of closed roads due to mudslides and the loss of interisland transportation.  These problems are especially acute in rural areas such as Laupahoehoe, which has only one highway leading to the county seat at Hilo.  So, most of us living in the rural countryside prepare for the day when county, state, and federal help may be delayed.

In my own case, the xyl has stored food and water for several weeks in case we are totally cut off by natural events, including earthquakes.  All amateur radio equipment can be shifted to battery power via solar cells.  I also have backup antennas, spare rigs, coax, ladder line, and various connectors in case they are needed.

Many amateurs living on Hawaii Island also have "go" kits in their vehicles, ready for emergency service should the need arise.  My mobile go kit is simple.  There is a Yaesu FT-7, 10 watt, SSB/CW rig, a B & W apartment antenna (similar to the MFJ-1622), 50 feet of RG-6 coax, 100 feet of 450-ohm ladder line, a small MFJ antenna tuner, a deep cycle marine battery, some solar cells to charge the battery, and various connectors, tape, and a butane soldering iron.  My van also contains a 3-day supply of food, water, and medical supplies.  I make an effort to keep the gasoline tank full at all times.  If electricity is lost because of a storm, there will be no way to pump gasoline from the nearest service station.  At home, the xyl and I have a good stock of food and water, along with a two-burner propane stove.

Every so often, I take off on a mini "expedition" to test how good my emergency station works.  Most of the time, everything works as planned.  But one never knows what will happen given the nature of tropical storms.  According to the National Weather Service, the remains of these decaying storms should hit by Thursday night or Friday morning.  Hopefully, the winds and rain will pass quickly without damage.  There is one "silver lining" to the upcoming storm passage--those depending on water catchment systems should see their tanks full by the time the storms pass well south of us.

'Till next time,

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Monday, July 9, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog
Post 165


BACK TO BASICS


One of the creative things amateur radio operators can do these days is to build simple, effect wire antennas.  Although most commercial antennas are well made and perform well, there is nothing quite like building your own antenna and working DX on a shoestring budget.  So, let's begin with my favorite band--20 meters.


After I took down my temporary "long wire" antenna this morning, it was time to rebuild a 20-meter antenna that had seen better days.  As mentioned in post 164, rodents and other unnamed creatures chewed on my feed lines and elements, creating an ugly mess.  Fortunately, I still had a homebrew 33-foot mast made from 2-inch pvc pipe which could be pressed into service.  I attached 16 1/2 feet of AWG 22 wire to one half of the mast and another 16 1/2 feet of wire to the bottom of the mast.  At the midway point of the mast, I attached and soldered 40-feet of 450-ohm ladder line.  The line ran into a 4:1 balun.  A short length of RG-6 coax with suitable connectors ran to the Drake MN-4 ATU.  A 3-foot patch cord made from RG-6 ran into the Swan 100-MX.  I tested the homebrew vertical dipole on 20, 15, and 10 meters.  The antenna caused no problems with the Drake MN-4 or the Swan-100 MX transceiver.  I also tried the vertical dipole on 40 meters just to see if it would load.  Results on 40 meters were mediocre, but I could load the antenna on this band if I had to.


The vertical dipole had several advantages, including the elimination of a radial system, which has been a problem in my small backyard.  I can also swivel the mast down to ground level quickly without tangling radial wires in the mast.  The antenna performs well, blends in with the environment, and can be safely stowed when it is not in use.


I still have the 40-meter inverted vee which performs well on 40 through 10 meters.  My backyard is getting populated by several masts and various lengths of wire.  I may have to remove some of the structures to keep the visual impact low and to keep lawn mowers out of trouble.


I'm doing as much maintenance and antenna repair as I can before school begins on 01 August.  After that date, it's back to my "regular" job as a substitute teacher.  My xyl and I get called frequently to teach, so I'm not fully retired--yet.  One must keep busy to prevent the brain from "rusting".


Have an excellent, productive day!

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog
Post 164

A QUICKLY DEPLOYED "LONG WIRE" ANTENNA

Most of my weekend chores are done, which gives me a few hours to play with antennas before Monday arrives.  Yes, even for those of us in the "semi-retired" category, there are things to do before the warm glow of vacuum tubes draws us back to the rf circus.

I've been able to build and test numerous antenna designs over the past few weeks, thanks to a break from my substitute teaching duties.  My xyl and I expect to be called shortly for another assignment since Hawaii public schools begin during the first week of August.  So, there's lots to do--clean up the "shack", inventory equipment, and otherwise try to find stuff I misplaced over the year. 

As for antennas, I decided to take down the inverted 40-meter vee for maintenance.  Rats and other small animals have chewed up some of the wire elements and a piece of coax I used to connect the 4:1 balun to the Drake MN-4 tuner.  While I was cleaning the mast and cleaning up the destruction from my little furry rodents, I noticed a 30 to 40-foot tree about 100 feet in back of the strip separating my house from the nearest neighbor.  Hmmm, I thought.  Why not string up a "long wire" from the garage roof to the tree and see what happens?  I used a similar arrangement years ago when I was a novice operator and had some good contacts.  I found several 33-foot rolls of AWG 22 gauge wire in the garage and a 40-foot length of 450-ohm ladder line from a previous experiment in the "junque" box.

I connected enough rolls of wire to make a length of 132 feet for the random wire.  I attached the wire to one lead of the ladder line, attached the other leg of the ladder line to my under-the-house 40-meter loop, and ran the assemblage to a 4:1 balun.  A short length of RG-6 coax connected the antenna to the Drake MN-4 tuner and then to the venerable Swan 100-MX.

I was able to run all bands from 80-meters through 10 meters, thanks to the ladder line and balun.  With power running between 10 and 50 watts, I was able to make plenty of daytime contacts on 20 and 15 meters by mid-afternoon.  I'll see what 80 and 40 meters does tonight.  I was able to reduce the SWR to 1.7 or better on most bands.  Nothing spectacular, of course, but contacts were made and the Drake MN-4 stayed cool.  The old Swan just chugged along without complaint. 

I will probably take the antenna down in a few days and replace it with the repaired 40 meter inverted vee.  The vee has much less visual impact than a bare wire swinging between my garage and the ohia tree.  All of this was good fun.  Besides, the project enabled me to get outside and enjoy some sun after many days of rain, gusty winds, and even thunderstorms.  Never a dull moment in the Central Pacific.

Until next time....

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Friday, July 6, 2012

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog, post 163

An emergency 6-meter antenna

Although 6-meter openings to Hawaii are fairly rare, many of us amateurs on Hawaii Island look forward to times when the "magic band" is open.  As is often the case, when 6-meters and 2-meters "open up" to the U.S. mainland, amateurs in the central Pacific often don't have a decent 6-meter antenna available when propagation is favorable.  By the time  I get home to tune in the 6-meter signals, most of the action has already past and many signals have disappeared into the noise.  Such is the state of the ionosphere.

However, I think there is a way to keep on top of 6-meters without an outlay of additional funds.  Of course, it helps to have a rig that can cover 6 - meters--most of the current HF  rigs from Kenwood, Yaesu, Icom, and Alinco cover the band.  Or in my case, I can resort to an old Heathkit 6-meter rig in the storage room for such emergencies.

As for antennas, you may have a workable 6-meter antenna and not know it.  I found an article by Steve Hajducek, N2CKH, in the 17th Edition of ARRL's "Hints and Kinks For the Radio Amateur," p. 10-1, that may prove useful for those quick and often fleeting 6-meter contacts.  Steve found that the common 2-meter 5/8 wave base loaded antenna as well as 54-inch HF-mobile antenna masts are 1/4 wave antennas for 6-meter operation.  Steve says, "depending on the make and model of the radio, a software menu selection of antenna port or the addition of a diplexer may be all that is needed to get in on the excitement of 6-meter SSB or FM while mobile."  I've got to try Steve's idea one of these days.  I have a spare 5/8 wave 2-meter mag mount antenna that could be pressed into service.  Presently, the antenna is mounted on the metal roof of my garage and serves me quite well for repeater and simplex contacts.  The next step will be to move the old Heathkit from the storage box to the shack and see if I can find some 6-meter signals when propagation permits. 

The results of my mini expedition up an old plantation road above Laupahoehoe on 05 July were good.  Until the rains came, I managed to snag several good cw contacts with the venerable Yaesu FT-7 and the B & W apartment antenna.  The 40-meter counterpoise worked like a charm and most of my signals were 5 6 9  to 5 8 9.  Not too bad for 10 watts, a marine battery, and a compromise coil-loaded vertical.  Of course, operating from a quiet spot at the 2,000-foot level helped a lot....not to mention a clear shot to the northeast over nothing but the Pacific Ocean.  I cut the operation off after an hour or so because I heard thunder in the distance.  No sense getting fried by a stray bolt out of the blue.

I trust your 4th of July went well.

Until next time,
Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Mobile operations on Independence Day

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog, post 162

Topic:  Mobile operations on Independence Day

Happy 236th Birthday to the United States of America.  As is the custom in this country, the national holiday is reserved for barbecues, sporting events, parties, fireworks, and just kicking back and enjoying what we fought for over these past 2 1/4 centuries.  Those celebrating the holiday on Hawaii Island have some added attractions, such as classic car cruises, outrigger canoe races, parades, and special concerts of Hawaiian music.  This will turn out to be quite a noisy affair.  Everything should return to something close to "normal" on Thursday. 

This year, I'm getting away from all of the noise, heavy traffic, and crowded beaches to operate HF mobile and portable in my own neighborhood.  Over the past few weekends, I've been using my emergency mobile set up in the van to operate from highlands above my qth.  When the Laupahoehoe Sugar Company closed its doors in the mid-90s, they left some excellent roads and other infrastructure in place, giving hams and those who love the outdoors a chance to "get away from it all" without traveling miles to do so.  After charging up the road in the van, I will park at a small turnaround at the 2,000-foot elevation and set up the emergency station.  The Yaesu FT-7 will sit on a small portable table next to my Drake MN-4 ATU.  The Drake will be connected to a B & W apartment antenna (similar to the MFJ-1622).  I'll run a 33-foot counterpoise from the  operating position to a nearby tree.  Power will be supplied by a deep cycle marine battery.  I brought along a set of solar cells to keep the battery charged while I crank up the Yaesu FT-7 to a mighty 10 watts cw.  In my "go" kit I have an old J-38 key and a decades-old Yaesu hand mike.  I've used this arrangement before with good results.  A good picnic lunch and plenty of iced tea will keep the operator running for several hours.  This should be great fun in the outdoors.  If I have time, I'll erect a homebrew 2-meter beam and try to contact several repeaters on the neighbor islands.  Two meters will be served by my old, but trusty Kenwood TH-21A hand held.  I don't know how many 2-meter contacts I can make with 1 watt, but I'll try out the arrangement just for fun.

After the brief mini expedition, the xyl and I will join some neighbors in a block party.  With each home bringing something to the potluck get together, no one should go away hungry.

Enjoy the holiday and get home safely.

Aloha de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Monday, July 2, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog

A simple 40 and 15 meter antenna you can build in just a few minutes

Sometimes it is possible to operate two or more bands with one antenna and a short run of good quality coaxial cable.  A simple 40 and 15 meter antenna, used either as a dipole or as an inverted vee, will provide hours of enjoyable contacts at modest power levels.

I've built several variants of this antenna, with the inverted vee configuration preferred because of my limited backyard space.  An antenna cut for 40 meter operation can be used on  15 meters because dipoles have harmonic resonances at odd multiples of their resonant frequencies.  Because 21 MHz is the third harmonic of 7 MHz, a simple 40 meter antenna (approximately 33 feet on each side of a center connector) can be used for both 15 and 40 meters.  There is one drawback to this wonderful plan.  The idea works if you cut the 40 meter dipole for use in the cw portion of the band, for example around 7.010 MHz.  As you move higher in the 40 meter band, the third harmonic will fall outside of the band.  How do you correct this problem?

According to an article on page 9-20 of the "Hints and Kinks for the Radio Amateur, 16th edition (ARRL publication),"  the use of capacitance "hats" will lower the antenna's resonant frequency of 15 meters without seriously affecting resonance on 40 meters.  The article states, "to put this loading scheme to work, first measure, cut and adjust the 40 meter dipole to resonance at your desired frequency. Then, cut two 2-foot long pieces of stiff wire (such as #12 or #14 house wiring) and solder hte ends of each piece together in the middle to create two figure 8s.  Solder the twisted centers of your "hat" to each leg of the 40 meter antenna at a point about a third of the way out from the feed point.  Adjust the loop shapes and take measurements on 15 meters until you reach an acceptable SWR on your chosen frequency.  When you check the SWR on 40 meters, you shuld only see a minor variation."

With this in mind, I quickly assembed some extra wire, a 50-foot length of RG-6 with the proper connetors, and fed the 40 meter antenna through my trusty Drake MN-4.  Then, I made some crude loops out of #14 house wire and attached the loops as instructed.  SWR was acceptable on cw and SSB portions of both bands.  I strung this antenna as an inverted vee.  My SWR was between 1.6 to 1.8 to 1 on both 15 and 40 meters.  With proper prunning, I probably could get the SWR down a bit lower. But for now, this two-band vee works great!  You could also add a 20 meter section to the "array" with those wires running at right angles (90 degrees) to the 40 meter elements.

The antenna is cheap, easy to raise and lower, and even easier to store in the garage.  One should always have a backup antenna in case your main structure falls  victim to the weather or vandals.  This project would make an excellent antenna for shortwave listeners who prowl the 41 meter band.

Have a good day and stay safe!

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series

KH6JRM's Amateur Radio Blog, post 160

NEW USES FOR OLD COAXIAL CABLE

ANTI-THEFT PROTECTION FOR EQUIPMENT

One of the things I enjoy when I'm not behind the key or microphone at my amateur radio station is reading historical material pertaining to amateur radio.  This sub-branch of the amateur radio hobby has given me several ideas on antenna improvement, reusing old materials in new ways, and protecting valuable equipment with a minimum of effort.

What do you do with old coaxial cable?  I tend to follow the advice of E.A. "Whit" Whitney, W1LLD, who wrote a brief article about reusing lossy cable in the 11th Edition of "Hints and Kinks for the Radio Amateur" (published by the ARRL in 1982).  Whit's article is found on page 5-13 of this excellent compendium of practical ideas from past issues of "QST", the official journal of the American Radio Relay League. 

In Whit's own words, coaxial cable "that's become too lossy for use as  transmission line" can be used "for radials in your ground system.  Lengths of the sheathing can be removed from the cable and installed as ground or bonding straps around your equipment, in your boat or on your car.  A length of such cable makes a good shielded lead from your car battery to your mobile radio."  In the past, I've used old lengths of RG-6 obtained as scrap from cable installation companies for radial and counterpoise systems.  In most cases, these old cables work well in this new application.  In my case, I got old cable for free or for just a few dollars.

Another problem amateur radio operators face is the loss of equipment through theft and the identification of such equipment when police recover the stolen radio and station accessories.  As in the previous discussion on coaxial cable, the 11th Edition of "Hints and Kinks for the Radio Amateur" contains a few suggestions on how you can handle the issue of anti-theft protection.  On page 7-4, Paul Zender, AA6PZ, has a few ideas to make the recovery of your lost equipment a bit easier.  Paul writes, "amateurs wishing to protect their equipment from theft shold mark it with the abbreviation of their state and driver's license number.  This makes it easier to trace through police computers than using social security numbers or an amateur radio call."  Check with your local police department to see if it participates in "Operation Identification".  You may be able to borrow engraving tools for marking household valuables, including your radios.  Stickers can be attached to indicate that the property is marked and the identification recorded with local law enforcement authorities.

I've marked my equipment and I hope you will do the same.  Have a good, safe weekend.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

PURPOSE OF THIS SITE

Over the past few days, some of my readers have asked why I put this site together and to whom  the information is directed.  These are fair questions, since my interest in Amateur Radio (Ham Radio) may be far from your concerns.

I have two reasons for writing this blog:

1.  The blog serves as a personal journal about my journey through interpersonal communications and my love for all things electronic.  I've been a licensed amateur radio operator for 35 years.  I've enjoyed every moment of the experience, from building equipment to designing my own antennas (the things that launch signals into the atmosphere).  I was fortunate to have had a good electronics background courtesy of the United States Air Force and over 40 years in the commercial broadcast business.  Very early in my radio journey, I helped design and build the student FM radio station at the University of Hawaii (Manoa), worked at various radio stations, and even put a part 15 (unlicensed, low power) AM station on the air from my house.  Before I became a school teacher, I retired as the news director of Pacific Radio Group stations on Hawaii Island.  So, you could say electrons run in my blood and may have scrambled my brain.  Everyday, I look forward to contacting friends around the world.  Sometimes, I even get to practice my Russian with hams in Moscow and in other parts of the Russian Federation.

2.  The blog also serves as a record of my experiences in overcoming obstacles presented to the pursuit of my radio hobby.  One of the things amateur radio operators do the most is design and build antennas.  Sometimes an efficient antenna creates friction with neighbors, who consider towers and supported wires a detriment to their sense of aesthetics.  In fact, restrictions placed on amateur radio operators by CC&Rs (covenents and restrictions), HOAs (Home Owners Associations), and the sheer lack of physical space have led many amateurs to seek other ways of continuing their hobby.  Presently, the U.S. Congress has mandated the FCC (Federal Communications Commission)  investigate how housing laws restrict the emergency operations of amateur radio operators.  One of the requirements of an amateur license in the United States is to provide emergency backup communications should regular channels go down.  Amateur radio operators have provided communications support to local agencies during times of emergency, such as hurricanes, fires, tsunamis, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.  Many hams feel that the growing restrictions against outside antennas will restrict their ability to respond in times of emergency.  Congress and the FCC will eventually figure out  some sort of solution to this problem.

Meanwhile, many amateur radio operators, including yours truly, are trying to make the best of a contentious situation.  That's where I come in.  After three and a half decades on the air, I have accumulated a lot of experience in designing and building simple, cheap, and inobstrusive antennas that will serve those operating in restricted situations.  The antennas I use in my crowded neighborhood are nearly invisible from the street and can be lowered to ground level during periods of inactivity.  Eversince I adopted this low impact antenna philosophy, there have been no complaints about unsightly structures or ruined views of the countryside.  So, I share what I've learned with other hams in the hope they, too, will find something useful in their situation.

Amateur radio operators are the descendants of Marconi, Popov, Hertz, De Forrest and others who have pushed back the frontiers of knowledge.  To paraphrase Sir Isaac Newton, "I stand on the shoulders of giants."

Have a good and safe weekend.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

SOMETHING DIFFERENT FOR THE ANTENNA EXPERIMENTER

The weather has improved to a point that I can get outside and play with antennas again.  Other than a twice-daily walk and jog with my xyl, the weather has kept both of us inside.  June on Hawaii Island often brings many days of showers, and this past week was no exception.  So, when the sun finally broke out for several hours, I rushed through my daily chores and proceeded to the postage stamp lot in back of our rental house for some serious antenna work.

Because the inverted vee, loop, and "upper and outer" antenna were doing well, I decided to make a vertical helix for 40 meters using some short pvc pipe, extra #22 AWG wire in the shack, and some 450-ohm balanced line into a balun and the trusty Drake MN-4 ATU.

According to information I found in several ARRL publications, a quarter wave vertical could be created by winding a half wavelength of wire around a sturdy pole and topping the end with a capacitance hat.  I've seen amateurs use vertical helix antennas designed for 80 meters with some good results.  Of course, a good radial field is necessary to make these shortened antennas perform.

Anyway, I wound 66 feet of #22 AWG wire along a 10-foot piece of schedule 40 pvc I had under the qth.  According to theory, that arrangement should give me an antenna roughly equivalent to a 33-foot vertical.  I attached an 18-inch capacity hat to top of the wire helix, connected one lead of 450-ohm wire to the helix, connected the other lead to a 33-foot counterpoise, and joined the entire system to a 4:1 balun and the Drake MN-4.  The homebrew vertical helix had a very narrow tuning range, but it did work on 40 and 15 meters with the help of the Drake MN-4.  I tried the helix on 20 and 10 meters with some degree of success, but the antenna seemed to work best on 40 and 15 meters.  The Drake MN-4 remained cool on all bands and I did not get any rf "bite" in the shack.  I was running 15 to 20 watts cw with no problem.  I tried a few SSB contacts at 50 watts and was pleased to get some good reports.  The vertical helix probably has more losses than my trusty inverted vee, but it does work and it does let you be heard.  Of course, results could be better if I had enough room to establish a decent radial system.

The vertical helix is easy to build, easy to disguise, and very portable.  The antenna is nearly invisible from the street in front of the qth, owning to its small size and proximity to local trees.  As is the case with my other antennas, the vertical helix can be swiveled down to ground level when I am not using it or when storm clouds approach.

I may use another helix on a longer pvc pole to get on 75 and 80 meters--frequencies which are difficult to operate from my location. 

I will let you know how that project turns out.  Meanwhile, have a good day and get on the air with something you have designed and built yourself.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

A VHF ANTENNA FOR YOUR APARTMENT

Apartment dwellers face unusual antenna problems, whether they be the  installation of HF antennas or VHF antennas.  Like many of you, I've resorted to using my handheld attached to a mag mount atop a refrigerator or other piece of interior metal.  While this arrangement works, it can be unsightly or even dangerous.

It seems Yvon Laplante, VE2AOW, has come up with an apartment antenna which is not only effective and cheap, but also disguiseable and safe.  Laplante's idea can be found in the "Hints & Kinks" column of "QST" for July 2012.  In Laplante's words, "I made a small dipole antenna using telescoping antennas I took from old, broken FM radios.  The antenna is mounted on a...3 x 5 inch piece of Plexiglas with two suction cups.  With my radio placed close to a window, I attached the antenna to the window and adjusted the two elements for 2 meters--about 19 inches.  The antenna gives very good results."  This antenna has low visibility and can be easily moved to better locations in the apartment. 

This afternoon I tried a similar antenna in the bedroom facing the island of Maui (a repeater there is about 75 miles from my qth.  The repeater is on the slopes of Mt. Haleakela).  Getting 2 meter signals to a local Hilo repeater is quite difficult with several ridges and mountain slopes directly in the path from my qth to Pepeekeo (just outside of Hilo--about 22 miles from my house).  So, most of us along the Hamakua Coast rely on the Maui Island repeaters for coverage.  Anyway, I taped two 18 inch pieces of #22 AWG wire to the bedroom window and fed them with  RG-6 coax via a HI-Que coax connector.  My old Kenwood handheld (TH-21) was able to raise two Maui repeaters with this arrangement.  My usual 2 meter antenna is a Larson 5/8 wave mag mount on the metal roof of my garage.  The Larson provides a better signal, but the "lash-up" I copied from VE2AOW seems to work fairly well.  I'll keep this homebrew antenna as an emergency backup to the Larson on the garage roof.

I have a similar set up in my van.  I placed an 18 inch vertical element and an 18 inch horizontal element fed by RG-6 coax on a window attached to the right sliding door.  I provided some slack so opening the door won't damage the coax.  While this antenna is a compromise, it does serve me well in Hilo town, where I can hit several local repeaters with my Kenwood TH-21 handheld.  I keep this old Kenwood as a spare and as a mobile rig for the van.  Even at the low power setting, I  can get solid copy in and around Hilo.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Monday, June 25, 2012

Simple Antennas for Amateur Radio Operators--a continuing series

A NEW ANTENNA FOR APARTMENT DWELLERS

The July 2012 issue of "QST" contains an interesting antenna article by Jeffery Brone, WB2JNA.  The article entitled "A Dipole Doesn't Have to be Straight--There's always a way to put some kind of antenna into service" runs from page 36 to page 37.  Brone's idea may give you another way to get on the air despite severe space restrictions.

Simply put, Brone ran approximately 35 feet of light gauge wire (#22 or #24 AWG) to  a balcony of his third floor apartment and ran another 35 feet around the apartment, "tacked up along the ceiling and corners, resulting in a full size dipole for 40 meters."  He fed the antenna through a MFJ manual tuner with  3 feet of homemade laddder line (2 inch spacing between the wires)  "and it loads up on all bands--40 through 10 meters."  Running low power (15 watts cw), Brone has been able to work Chagos Island, Africa, and South America.

Brone says common sense applies when you use this homebrew antenna--avoid folding the wire back on itself and use low power to minimize RFI and exposure to RF.  Brone concludes his excellent article with what he calls the "10 rules of stealth/apartment/restricted antennas":
"Something for an antenna is better than nothing."
"More wire is usually better than less, unless the antenna is only meant for one band."
"Balanced (center fed dipole or vertical) is better than unbalanced (end fed wire), all other things being equal."
"All other things are seldom equal.  Try different arrangements.  Read up on the subject."
"Get a tuner.  A low priced manual one is okay.  You'll want it for some bands and will appreciate the flexibility it gives you."
"Get a dummy load, too."
"Keep the power low for safety and less RFI."
"CW and digital modes produce more contacts than SSB."
"Listen, listen, listen."
"Put up the best antenna you can manage, then get on the air and have fun!"

Indoor antennas do work if you allow for their limitations.  When I first became a Novice operator back in 1977, my first antenna was a 70-foot loop tacked to the ceiling of the teacher's cottage my wife and I shared in Honokaa.  Fed with 300-ohm twin lead and hooked to a balun and a Drake MN-4, the homebrew loop did a good job on 40 and 15 meters.  I still have the old Drake MN-4, so I guess the tuner survived my initial efforts at antenna design.

Now, I have an inverted vee, an "upper and outer" vertical with counterpoise, and an under-the-house 40 meter loop.  My small backyard can just accommodate the vertical and the vee.  I suppose I'm luckier than many who face CC&Rs, HOAs, and no backyard space.  Give this bent dipole of WB2JNA's a try--it could open an entire new frontier for you.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Simple Antennas for the Amateur Radio Operator--a continuing series

FIELD DAY IN HILO, HAWAII

The Big Island Amateur Radio Club endured rain, heat, and wind to complete another successful ARRL Field Day at Hilo's Wailoa Visitors Center.

Frequent rain showers and unsafe track conditions led to the cancellation of the June Points Meet at the Hilo Drag Strip.  The closing of the track freed a few hours to enjoy the ARRL Field Day with the Big Island Amateur Radio Club.  I was only able to spend about 3 hours with club members, but I did see some interesting antennas and displays at the visitors center.

When I arrived for the 0800 W start of the event, the sky was overcast with scattered showers--a perfect time to erect antennas!  By the time I got squared away, the club had erected a 40 meter vertical and a hardy cw operator starting logging in contacts on 15 meters.  The erection of the triband beam had to wait until the skies cleared and the threat of thunderstorms subsided.  While all of this was going on, the trusty vertical and a Yaesu-857D kept KH6EJ (club call) on the air.  The rig ran off several deep cycle marine batteries until the tribander and a 3-element yagi could be erected.  The club also had a mobile station (class 1-C) using a 20 meter hex beam.

About 35 club members and 50 or so local residents attended this edition of Field Day.  A reporter from the "Hawaii Tribune-Herald" newspaper interviewed several club members and took a long series of photographs for the paper.  By the time I left at 1130 W, a second rig was added to the mix, making the club fully operational as 2A Pacific.  A small Honda generator and a bank of solar cells were used to charge our batteries.

The weather was quite wet and gusty through Saturday night.  There was some clearing by early Sunday morning, so some of the weather was favorable for raising and lowering antennas.  Club members, friends, and family brought sufficient supplies of food and drink to keep the over night operators fully fueled.  The club also had a media display, handouts from the ARRL, and an emergency communications kit for the public to examine.  Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi declared Saturday, 23 June 2012, as "Amateur Radio Field Day in Hawaii County".  So, the club got quite a bit of print and electronic publicity.  My former employer (Pacific Radio Group) ran public service announcements about Field Day, as did some of the other radio stations in Hilo.

Considering the poor weather conditions, participation by both amateur radio operators and the general public was excellent.  The Wailoa Vistors Center was large enough to accommodate club members, county officials, and the public.  All told, club members did an excellent job of getting out the word about Amateur Radio.  Several local residents expressed an interest in upcoming license classes taught by club members.

I trust your Field Day went well.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15

Friday, June 22, 2012

Simple Antennas for Field Day

FIELD DAY ANTENNAS

The ARRL's traditional Field Day Emergency Communications Exercise begins shortly.  For Amateur Radio operators in the state of Hawaii, the fun begins this Saturday at 0800W and ends Sunday at 0800W...a full 24-hours of emergency operations, a near contest atmosphere, and, most of all, outrageous fun!.

This year, the Big Island Amateur Radio Club will use the grounds of the beautiful Wailoa Visitor's Center in Hilo.  The site is open to the public and is covered in case of summer rains.  Although the club will be running 2A Pacific with solar and generator power, there is commercial AC available for the evening and morning meals.  Ah yes, the food.  As was the case last year, club members will prepare something at home and bring their surprises to the center.  I'll be bringing a case or so of soda and fruit juce to keep the operators fueled throughout the long, sticky night.  Once I get through with the drag races at the Hilo Drag Strip (I'm the tower announcer for this event),  I'll drive over to the operating site and settle in for a few hours of logging and operating.

Field Day brings out all kinds of operating equipment.  Last year, the club had a variety of rigs, including the latest Kenwood and Yaesu transceivers.  But what brought me out last year was the diverse selection of antennas available.  The club put up an impressive tribander, a set of phased verticals for 40 meters, and, on one occasion, strung a full wave, 80 meter loop between several palm trees.  That antenna was quite a performer.  This time, the club will have a tribander, a phased vertical array (most likely for 40 meters), and a surprise for 80 and 160 meters.  Satellite operations are also on the schedule.

Most likely, I'll spend some time with our newly licensed amateur radio operators, giving them some experience in a contest-like situation.  As was the case last year, I'll be doing logs while the new operators try to make contacts.  All of this is great fun.  At about 10 p.m., I'll  bid farewell to my fellow amateurs and head home for a good night's sleep.

For those of you who can't get to a club site, a home-based operation, running 1E (emergency power) or 1D (commercial mains) could be quite an experience.  I ran 1E a few years back and thoroughly enjoyed the excitement.  My equipment was modest--an old Swan 100 MX and a homebrew inverted vee fed by balanced 450-ohm line.  That old antenna is still in use as is the venerable Swan.  I think I made around 150 contacts before my eyes and fingers gave up at around 3 a.m. Sunday morning.  I wasn't worth much of anything on Sunday, but I surely had fun!

So, even if you can't make it out to a club site, give Field Day a try.  You might even run a mobile operation for some added excitement.

I hope to hear you 23/24 June.

Aloha es 73 de KH6JRM--BK29jx15