Major Equipment Changes

Over the last few weeks, I’ve made significant changes to my station.  I found an IC-7000 locally, at a very fair price.  It’s an amazing little radio and does what had taken many pieces of equipment to accomplish previously.  With the 7000 coming into the shack, I sold off much of the gear that I had been using for HF/VHF.

Out With the Old (more…)


ARRL DX Phone 2011

Whenever there is a major contest, I try to get on the air.  This year’s ARRL DX Phone contest was no exception.  I’m not a serious contester, but I like to help others get Rhode Island and usually pick up some new states or entities myself. I typically only work for an hour or two throughout a contest weekend.

With so many DX stations on the air for this event, I thought it would be a good time to boost my totals on bands other than 20m.  I spent most of my 1st year on HF exclusively on 20m, so that’s where I’ve worked the most DX.  15m seemed to be in the best shape when I was on the air, so that’s where I spent most of my time.

New entities worked on 15 were: (more…)

DXCC Updates

Since I worked three new DXCC entities today, I thought it would be a good time to update my DXCC stats here on the blog.  My last report was when I had worked my 100th DXCC entity, with 60 confirmed.  Since then I’ve worked 13 more and confirmed another 6.  The new ones worked are:

Cape Verde
Cayman Islands
Guantanamo Bay
San Marino

Extra, Extra, Read All About It

As you may have guessed from the title of this post, I am now an Amateur Extra.  I passed my element 4 exam this past Saturday with a score of 90%.  I had been casually considering an upgrade, but decided to study and go for it when I saw an exam session close to home.  I also decided to keep my current callsign, as I have grown rather attached to it since I was first licensed 18 years ago.

Published in: on February 14, 2011 at 2:06 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Kenwood TR-751A 2m All Mode

Ever since I picked up a Ten-Tec 1209 2m to 6m transverter, I’ve been looking to add a 2m all mode radio to my shack for a few weeks now.  Since most of my equipment is Icom, I was watching for an IC-275, but decided to go for a Kenwood TR-751A instead when a good deal came along.  I have had the rig for a few days now and really like it so far.

Kenwood TR-751A

Kenwood TR-751A

The TR-751A puts out 25W in high power mode and can be adjusted between 2W-25W in low power mode.  The rig was very clean when I received it, but still needed some minor tweaks.  I noticed that high power output was only 20W vs the 25W in the spec sheet, so when I had the cover off to set the low power potentiometer, I adjusted the high power one as well.  My transverter accepts up to 5W in, so I set the TR-751A to about 4W in low power mode.  That gives me 25% margin in case my power reading is a little off.  Even with adjustments, high power remained a little low, so I looked at the next most likely culprit, (more…)

Published in: on February 9, 2011 at 8:53 pm  Comments (5)  
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2m Yagi Build

As Field Day approached last year, I decided it was time to build a 2m Yagi.  While my Cheaper and Easier Yagi for 70 cm certainly has its benefits, I decided to go for a more permanent and professional looking antenna for 2m.  That’s not to say the design I chose didn’t turn out to be cheap and easy.

I decided to build a direct connect beam, based on this 2 Meter 4 element beam, center frequency 146.52 MHz.  While that site showed the basic dimensions, it didn’t really show all of the construction details, so that’s what I hope to provide here.  I made some slight changes as well, in the name of simplicity.

I decided to build the antenna out of aluminum, which was readily available at my local building supply company.  But before I bought a single part, I modeled the antenna to get a basic sense of what its potential performance might be.

The dimensions for the design are shown below. The particularly astute reader will notice that the reflector length is slightly shorter than the reference design.  Since aluminum is readily available in 6ft lengths, I was able to make the shortened reflector and smallest director out of a single 6ft piece.  My modeling showed a negligible difference.  This reduced my waste and cost, since I didn’t have to buy an 8ft section instead.  I decided against a similar compromise on the boom and bought an 8ft length, even though I needed just slightly more than 6ft.

Lengths and Spacings: (more…)

Persuing New Awards

Ever since I worked my 100th DXCC entity, I’ve been looking for my next challenge.  I’m fairly close to finishing Worked All States with only two close ones remaining: Connecticut and New Hampshire.  I’ve been trying to earn it on 20m, which has been tough.  Rhode Island is such a small state that I have lots of other states too close for normal 20m propagation.  I may try to get my two last ones on either VHF or one of the low bands just to complete the basic award and watch for the right conditions to finish out 20m.  Most of my contacts have been on digital modes, and most of those on BPSK-31.  So the Digital, PSK31, and 20M PSK31 endorsements are all within my grasp.

The real award I’ve started to pursue is the Triple Play Award.  There aren’t any band endorsements, so I can choose whatever bands make it easy to work each state in the CW, Phone, and Digital modes.  I am hoping to add VHF all mode capabilities to my shack soon, which should help with some of the closer states.  Of course, a large part of the Triple Play Award is that all contacts must be confirmed via LoTW.  I currently have 6 states confirmed on CW, 12 on Phone, and 44 on Digital.  I’ve worked many more states on phone and a few more on CW, but with operators who don’t use LoTW so they don’t count.  So obviously I have a long way to go on the Triple Play Award.  That’s fine by me though; if it didn’t take a big effort there wouldn’t be much value behind the award.

My other casual persuit that began recently is to earn WAS using JT65A.  I haven’t been using the mode much, but already have 17 states confirmed via LoTW.  I have worked even more that could be confirmed via paper QSL as well.

I’m sure my focus will shift when I add a VHF all mode rig to the mix and when I get my DX-LB Plus hung once the snow melts.  I’ll probably be starting a run at VUCC and/or 40m WAS.  But for now, the ones above are where I’m spending most of my time.

The Joy of QSLing

Maybe I’m still too new at this amateur radio thing (I’ve only been a ham for 18 years) but I really enjoy sending and receiving QSL cards.  I also use LoTW and eQSL, both of which have their place.  But there’s nothing quite like receiving a card in the mail or – better yet – a nice fat envelope from the bureau.  Seeing a big stack going out has a similar, if slightly muted, effect.  Yes, there are costs associated with it and yes, it takes a considerable amount of time, but both are significantly less than the cost and time invested in operation.

While my DXCC entities worked remains just over 100, my confirmations continue to rise.  I suppose that’s due to a shift in focus from working them to confirming them once I hit the magic number of 100.  I sent out about 75 bureau cards just before Christmas and have also been mailing out direct cards to non-bureau stations.  I reply to all cards that I receive, so most cards aren’t going to unconfirmed entities or states for me, but I like to think that many of the cards that I send are the first confirmed Rhode Island contact for many stations.  I’d estimate that about 5% of my contacts fall into that category, from info provided during the QSO.

QSL card cost and quality can vary greatly from one vendor to another.  A high cost card doesn’t necessary mean a high quality one.  In fact, (more…)

Ten-Tec 1209 Gets Me on 6m

Despite having operating privileges on 6m since I was first licensed in 1992, I have never had any equipment with 6m capabilities.  In my early days as a ham, 2m FM and a KPC-3 for packet was all I ever needed.  After my upgrade to General about a year ago, I have been focusing on HF.  Since I have a 2m rig and an HF rig, I started looking into Ten-Tec transverters to add 6m capabilities to my shack.  I could either go with the 1208 and get 6m through my HF rig or the 1209 and get it through my 2m rig.  Either options has its pros and cons.  My IC-718 doesn’t have FM so I’d miss out on 6m repeaters.  My IC-229h only has FM, so I’d miss out on CW and SSB.  After looking at both options, I decided to go for the 1209.  I’m much more likely to add a 2m all mode than an HF with FM in the near future.

After watching a few eBay auctions, I retreated to my comfort zone and monitored the QRZ Swapmeet Forum closely for a few days.  That’s where I had found my HF equipment last year.  In no time at all, I saw a 1209 listed at a fair price and contacted the seller.  I was the first to respond and had the 1209 within a few days.  The unit is in great shape and fits in nicely with my other equipment.

Ten Tec 1209 Front

Ten Tec 1209 Back

Since I only have FM capabilities (and no 6m tuner) for the time being, I decided to put together a simple 6m dipole sized to the FM portion of the band.  I’ll mount it in a vertical orientation.  With each leg at 4′ 5-1/2″, I housed the dipole in a 9ft section of PVC pipe that I had on hand.  This is definitely a compromise antenna, but should be enough to at least test out my transverter.  I’ll post more about the transverter once I test it on the air.

The addition of the Ten-Tec 1209 also inspired me to closely monitor the QRZ Swapmeet Forums for a 2m all mode rig.  I’ve always been an Icom man, so I’m looking for a IC-275, but will consider alternatives if the right rig comes up for sale.

JT65A Operations Today

I like to work many modes in my pursuit of new confirmed QSOs.  Each mode has its pluses and minuses and also its die hard operators.  Today I spent most of my time on the air operating JT65A.  I’ve used the mode a few times in the past, after a QST article peaked my interest in the subject a few months back.  For a very helpful getting started guide, see The Complete Bozo’s Guide to HF JT65A by K3UK.  I actually just realized who the author is.  K3UK is also the ham behind the extremely helpful LOTW (and others) sked page.  So double kudos to Andy!

Casually working the mode today, I made a grand total of 9 QSOs.  JT65A uses an extremely short message exchange, but the messages themselves take quite awhile to transmit due to the error encoding.  For weak signal enthusiasts, or the all mode operator, it is worth the wait for a QSO that might not be possible otherwise.

A typical exchange looks something like this: (more…)

Published in: on January 13, 2011 at 9:44 pm  Leave a Comment  
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