Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mail Call!

I got a couple QSL cards in the mail today, getting a QSL card in the US MAIL is worthy of a big happy dance.  A lot of hams out there have decided to go totally electronic and use LOTW and eQSL instead of writing out a QSL card and mailing it.  Since this is a vintage rig I am working with, I decided I would do something vintage and actually mail a card to every one of my contacts during this WAS attempt.   So feast your eyes on these! 

We're supposed to get very severe weather this evening so I jumped on the HW-8 the minute I got home.  I was calling CQ on 7061 and after a couple of CQ's I was answered by Jerry W8HOG from Lynchburg Ohio.  Jerry started learning CW back in 2011 and he's become quite good at it.  If you check him out on QRZ you will read about his extensive collection of top notch keys, paddles and bugs.  Here is a picture of his Vibroplex bug, he's using a Oxweld cutting torch tip drilled and shortened to slow the Vibroplex Bugs down.  That's pretty cool!  The storms are pretty much thrashing the 40m band right now, so I had to QRT for the night. (SSN:40 SFI:82 A:10 K:2)  The streak is still alive even though I did not get to add any states to the log today.  There is always tomorrow! 

W8HOG Bug with Welding Tip Weight
 73 de KB9BVN

Squeaked one in!

Got on the air yesterday at about 4:45PM, the band was noisy, seemed to be a lot of static crashes.  I was hoping to work Jay AJ4AY in Alabama today but they were getting storms in Mobile so he had to unplug.  Ron WB1HGA, another fellow Flying Pig QRP Club member was lurking and after about 30 minutes of trying we finally made the contact on 7105.  Ron sent me a 339 and I had him 589 here between the static crashes and the noise.  The QSO was short and sweet.  Ron lives in MA so this is a new state for me and the HW-8.  He is also an avid QRPer, and I was hoping to work him while he was on his OHR-400.  The funny thing is that I sold him the OHR-400 probably close to 7 or 8 years ago, but it was not happening with the band conditions today. (SSN:35 SFI:82 A:7 K:3)

WB1HGA's OHR-400 - A Doug DeMaw W1FB design
Better luck tomorrow! 


Monday, February 27, 2017

Here's what 2 watts looks like

I snapped this today. I had been calling CQ from about 6AM to 6:30AM and heard virtually nothing on 40m. Checked RNB and my sigs were all showing under 10db...to say the least there wasn't much propagation happening for me this morning.  

HW-8 at 2 Watts on 40m
The power meter in this photo is the Oak Hills Research WM-2.  Oak HIlls Research was started by none other than Doug DeMaw W1FB, and is now owned and operated by Marshall Emm N1FN. OHR is a great place for kits and CW supplies.  

Sunday, February 26, 2017

NC State QSO Party is ON the AIR

Hearing every CW station from North Carolina all at the same time on 40m.  So I tuned down to 7025 where is was quiet and started calling CQ.  According to the Reverse Beacon (bacon?) network I was on 7024.1 and my dial said 7025...SO much better since I adjusted it. 

After a few CQ's I was answered by Paul W2CW (what a great call sign) down in Raleigh NC, I already have NC in the log but when you run 1.5 watts you take any QSO you can get.   Paul is 79 years old, and has been a CW operator since he was 12 years old.  His father wasn't a ham but enjoyed using the old Atwater Kent radios.  His radio was a FT 1000MP and he was using a OCF dipole arrangement. 

He said the HW-8 was doing a great job down his way, and we QSO'd for almost 25 minutes before the band started changing and we got some QRM from a dreaded tuner upper.  We have some company now so I had to QRT...maybe later this evening I can get back on the air and see if I get another state to color in.  In my previous experience, the first 25 states come quickly...and the last teen seem to take forever.  I figure this WAS effort will take at least a year.  So come along for the ride!  Let's schedule a QSO for your state!  Contact me at kb9bvn@gmail.com


Saturday, February 25, 2017

QSO Parties galore!

Well the North American RTTY QSO Party started about 35 minutes ago and so far they are not bothering 40m, although I suspect they will take over as the day goes on.  40m is sounding a little deaf, the solar index and propagation numbers aren't that hot (SSN:27 SFI:82 A:20 K:0) and usually an A index like that means deafness reigns....but guess what?  I have managed to work WI, KY and NC in the last 90 minutes.  I already had WI in the log but this was a new Novice Roundup Rig and I wanted him in that contest log. 

So the first contact of the day was Dave WB9EGZ up in Wisconsin.  Dave was running a Drake 2NT xtal controlled transmitter at 50w.  See the picture below.  Dave loves old radios and enjoys golf and  sailing on Lake Michigan.  

WB9EGZ radio collection
Drake 2NT Transmitter

The next contact was with Bob WB4IEA down in Kentucky, a new state!  Bob was running the same exact transmitter as Dave was.  He was also at 50w and this rig sounded like the big buck boys.  Bob has a great fist and his NRR is 161.  Bob was also using a Drake Receiver but I am not sure which model. Back in the day, Drake gear was top shelf all the way. 

Then I worked another NRR member, and that was Bob WB9CAC from down in North Carolina, another new state for me!  This Bob was running a Knight T60 crystal controlled rig at 30w.  Bob loves tube gear and has built several nice rigs based on his bio on QRZ.  Bob also likes to jump out of perfectly good airplanes.  

Knight T 60 Transmitter

My next contact of the day was Mike WB0SND out in Missouri. This was another NRR contact, and I already had MO in the log but Mike is an interesting guy.  He has a vacuum tube sales business  and he is into restoring old radios and old cars.  He owns a 1930 Buick Coupe and you can see it on his QRZ biography page. Very cool.  Mike was running a Johnson Viking (I think), I copied Johnson...then got QRM'd and then heard "ing" at the end...and he was running 60w.  We traded NRR and SKCC numbers.  I am now hearing a LOT more RTTY stations, and the band is short...the SC stations have faded away and now I am hearing Indiana and Illinois mostly. (4PM)

The Novice Rig Roundup has been a ton of fun, but it ends tomorrow.  During this event I have come to appreciate the old rigs, and especially using the HW-8 .   I have better radios, well radios with more features, and more circuits that are used to help tune on and lock on signals.  With these old rigs you are forced to use your ears, sometimes it really helps to shut your eyes, reduce the volume a bit and concentrate on the weak ones.  The Joy of QRP (saaaalute to Ade Weiss W0RSP) makes each and every contact a cause for celebration.  If you haven't tried it you may be missing out. 

The South Carolina QSO Party is underway and I have heard TONS of stations from SC and I have answered every single one of them but they are not hearing me.  I need SC for the logbook, so I will attempt to make contact with them later this afternoon.  The wind is picking up here but my attic dipole doesn't care. Storms came through last night and we went from 72 F to 29F this morning.  Nothing like Indiana weather to keep you on your toes! 

I updated the WAS map, I have 16 in the log now...and I find it interesting to see  just how well this 1.5 watts and my 40m half wave attic dipole are getting out in these conditions.  This is proof that it is best to just get on the air and see what's happening.  I never check the solar conditions until I am done for the session.  In the words of the great space man Han Solo, "Never tell me the odds!"

I did manage to adjust my dial on the HW-8...it's +/- 2 Khz now instead of being off by 25 Khz...closer is better.  Also I have heard the following states...OK,MN,LA,SC,NE,AR, NJ, and AL but I have not been able to get them to hear me yet.  Every day is a new adventure though...40m is like a box of resistors, you never know what you'll get!


Friday, February 24, 2017

Storms, static, and RTTY

Well it got up to 72 degrees this afternoon, and now the storms are moving in big time.  Lightning strikes within a few miles of the house so I am shutting down, and the North American RTTY contest runs all weekend as well...so may not make much progress this weekend.  Suits me, I can use a night off. 

Ivin W9ILF is looking for a simple transmitter to couple with his old S20R receiver.  If you know of something please let him know!  It needs to be 40m, with VFO, and outputting at least 1.5 watts and no more than 3 watts.

Enjoy the weekend...we'll be diving down from 70 degrees to about 20 degrees tomorrow night.  Welcome to Indiana.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Oh What a Night! 40m was COOKIN!

I got home a bit early from work so I was on the radio at about 5:40PM.  the band was sounding pretty good even though the solar report was not that great. (SSN:17 SFI:83 A:11 K:3) The first QSO tonight was in the Novice Rig Roundup.  I worked Bob K0FHG out in Missouri on 7115 Khz, we traded RST (I got a 439) and NRR numbers (mine is 300 and I just got it). Bob was running 30w but I could not make out what radio he was using.  His NRR is 202 so he has been at it for some time.  It was good to have Missouri in the books. 

The next QSO was another NRR station, Sam K4RTE out in Virginia.  He was using a old Globe Chief 90 at 25w.  This is a crystal controlled rig and it is way older than my HW-8.  His NRR number is 46 so he's really been at it for awhile.  Sam is also in the SKCC with number 11464T.  Very nice QSO, great fist.  He did give me a WOW when I told him I was at 2 watts. (I say 2w but I'm really at about 1.5 watts)

Then next up I heard from the state of Kansas.  John K0JVX was calling CQ on or near 7050. John is a fantastic CW operator.  His fist was crystal clear, and easy copy.  Sometimes we refer to this as armchair copy because it is so good you could just sit there and listen to it for hours.   John was running 70 watts to a dipole he says was aimed right at me here in central Indiana.  We traded RST, I got a 579 and he was a solid 599.  John is 72 years old and has been a CW operator for 59 years.  He's got 30 years of experience over me, and he told me his dad was a ham so he got a real early start.  That's very cool.  John is also in the SKCC and his number is 11096. I can QSO with guys like this every day of the week. He's an operator that makes CW a real pleasure.

I gave it up at about 8:30...the noise was getting worse and my head was starting to play tricks on me.  I did hear CO3ET from Habanna Cuba on about 7008 tonight and VE4AKI up in Manitoba...I called and called and they did not reply.  So goes 40m into the night.  There is always tomorrow! 


Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Two more down and 39 to go!

Got home late from work so I didn't get on the air until about 7PM, just in time for the shortwave broadcast interference.  It was a religious station out of Florida I think.  So I started calling around and the RBN was showing me in double digits between 10db and 20db on most of the skimmers.  It was a little weird but about every 15 minutes the signal rating would drop below 10db and then come back up...the A index was 10 and climbing.  (SSN:19 SFI:83 A:10 K:1)

My first one tonight was Mike K5MP down in Florida.  We traded SKCC and RST and then the QRN/QRM pretty much swallowed us up.  The band was noisy tonight again, and I think I may borrow a SCAF audio filter from Ivin W9ILF to help with the noise. Mike K5MP is a long time SKCC operator and he's very good at it as his SKCC number shows, it's 1537S and that S means he's made hundreds of SKCC contacts.  Mike made this cool Cootie Key from a hacksaw blade! 

K5MP - Homebrew Cootie Key
The more I use my straight key (A Nye Viking Master Key)  the more I think I like it.  I have an adapter on order so I can plug my Norcal Keyer in and use my paddles...but maybe not. 

Nye Viking Master Key - Straight Key KB9BVN Uses

The next one I worked was Roger W9BZ from Indiana, he lives about 12 miles from my house! He was plugging away on his Johnson Ranger at 50w tonight, in 29 years of hamming I had never worked an op using a Johnson Ranger...until this week, when I have now worked two of them.  I don't know much about them but they sound great on the air.  Roger is 79 and has been pounding brass for 64 years.  His fist was great copy and I found out we are both in the same radio club, Midstate Amateur Radio Club

E.F. Johnson Ranger Transmitter
Well that's it for tonight.  I am going to try and increase my chances by using the VOACAP point to point propagation predictor.  Stay tuned! 


Tuesday, February 21, 2017

40m Propagation Tonight....SSN:25 SFI:83 A:5 K:0

Started out tonight at about 6PM EST. I was amazed at the signal reports I saw on the Reverse Beacon Network.  What an incredible tool! 

RBN - Evening 02-21-2017

The first one I got tonight was Randy W9RDB up in Madison WI.  We traded 599's and SKCC numbers. He was running about 50w into an end fed wire from his FT-950.  Sounded great here!  He used to have a set of Drake rigs but said the receiver was currently not operating.  Too bad, that is some fantastic vintage gear.  I'm going to keep at it for another hour...no RIT, almost no filtering, and NO QSK can make your head spin at times.


Novice Rig Roundup

The Novice Rig Roundup is going on until February 26th.  If you hear ops calling CQ NRR, they are working the Novice Rig Roundup.  My NRR number is 300.  You can learn more about the Novice Rig Roundup by visiting their website. 

Novice Rig Roundup 

NRR is an opportunity to brush up your code skills with other stations, many of whom will be patient! Exchange some information for fun, swap NRR and SKCC numbers (not required) and compete for the honors! More of an EVENT than just a typical contest, but still great fun. Get those old radios back on the air! 


Monday, February 20, 2017

Half Day Off Work Today!

I work for an internet company in Indianapolis.  On the first nice spring like day of the year we are all dismissed at noon and ordered to take the rest of the day off and enjoy the weather.  Indiana winters can sometimes be brutal, so this little half day is always appreciated.  Since I am on call this week, I can't really go anywhere so I decided to fire up the HW-8 and see what I can hear.  WOW the 40m band is doing well today (SSN:23 SFI:81 A:10 K:3) despite the high A index. 

I got on the air at about 5PM local, and the first station I worked was Tim K9SB over in Illinois.  Tim was working the Novice Rig Roundup and we traded SKCC numbers and radio info.  He was running a crystal rig at 40 watts and we traded 599 reports.  I checked Tim out on QRZ and Tim is a Navy Submariner. I wonder if he served with my good friend /rick WB6JBM.  Tim if you read this, thank you for your service! Anchors Aweigh! 

After Tim I moved off 7055 and headed up to the old Novice territory at 7115, there is where I worked Perry W8AU over in my other neighboring state, Ohio.  he was running a XTAL controlled radio at 50w, and we also traded NRR and SKCC info.  He was 599 here and I got a 579 from him and a "WOW that 2w sounds GREAT" (emphasis all mine).  From Perry's biography on QRZ I see is he also a Navy guy.  Saaaaa-lute!  Thank you for your service Perry! 

Then, when we got done, I tuned down the band just a wee bit and called CQ CQ NRR a few times and Everett N0AIE called me back from Springfield SOUTH DAKOTA!!  We traded 559's but SOUTH DAKOTA is great DX from here.  When I have run WAS events in the past SD has been my LAST STATE more than once!  I was jumping for joy, howling at the moon, and doing a major happy dance with both feet when we got done.  Check Everett out on QRZ and you'll see he has a great collection of radio gear in his shack.  So now I am up to eight in the logbook, and I hope to get a couple more in there before going to bed tonight...but it's dinner time...and we all know what that means! 


Sunday, February 19, 2017

Last QSO of the night...

This is a fine example of the fellowship of Amateur Radio.  I was tuning around on the HW-8 after a very busy day hanging out with some grand kids, and going grocery shopping with my most excellent wife.  I was getting clobbered right and left by the ARRL DX contest and this was on 40m.  Ugh.  So I fired up the Slack Channel we use for the Indiana Elmer Network and started looking for Ivin W9ILF to see if he was around and on the air.  The RBN showed he had not yet been on today. 

Anyway I got his attention in chat and he was working a guy in New York, and I needed New York, but we were in a race...and Ivin asked KD2IZT to give a shout out for KB9BVN.  How is that for just being a most excellent ham?  Lou called me, and I answered and he did not hear me.  I was frantic.  He and Ivin went back to QSOing and I was listening to KD2IZT's every word...could not hear W9ILF. A few minutes later Lou called me again, and this time he heard me and gave me a 579 from Yorktown NY.  He was 599 in my headphones and running a TS-590 at 75 watts.  He was happy to work my HW-8 and we traded SKCC numbers and all was right with the world (apologies to Jean Shepherd K2ORS). 

Ivin thinks he is a comedian, after the QSO he said he told Lou that I was mentally unstable, and he should act like he heard me even if he couldn't.   Well I know Lou heard me, and yes, I may be a bit unstable but THAT'S HAM RADIO!

If you ever hear Ivin W9ILF on the air, work him, and you will have worked one of the nicest hams I have ever had the good fortune to meet and Elmer years ago, and he plays a mean Cello!

My posting here will slow down this coming week as I am on 24 hour call for work all week.  It will give me some time to be on the air in the evenings but not much.   So right now I stand at 5 states, a mere 45 more to go.   Best 73


Georgia...no longer on my mind!

The Novice Rig Roundup has been running all weekend on 7115 Khz, so it seems.  I just worked Bob AK4JA down in Georgia so that one is now off my list.  Bob is an incredible operator, he was using a homebrew XTAL controlled rig that was making 4 watts.  He gave me a 589 and he was rock solid 599 here in New Whiteland Indiana.  Bands conditions are still not super hot (SSN:13 SFI:78 A:11 K:3) but a wee bit better than yesterday.   Four down, 46 to go!

The Flying Pigs QRP Club International have their monthly "Run for the Bacon" sprint.  Starts at 9PM local time and runs until 11PM...jump in and give it a try!  (All CW, all HF) see the website for full details.  http://fpqrp.org

I will try to play in the RFTB sprint tonight but that's past my bedtime.  BTW I am an SKCC member and would love to trade numbers with you!


A couple of folks have asked that I post some topless photos of the HW-8, well here they are.  Feast your eyes on the raw beauty that the HW-8 is.  She's a marvel sent here from the 1970's!  Click on any of the pictures below to see them in full size.

Top View of Entire Board

Crystals and Filter

Tuning Section - Preselector on the right

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Pennsylvania and West Virginia Bite the Dust!

Just worked Brian K9VKY from Pennsylvania in the Novice Rig Roundup. Brian was running a vintage Globe Chief with XTAL transmitter.  The XTAL was for 7115 Khz and that's just about what I had estimated.  He was pushing out 40 watts and gave me a 589.  I gave him a 589 right back.  Band conditions (SSN:14 SFI:75 A:20 K:2) on 40m have not improved and we had to wait for QRM dragged in by the QSB. 

Shortly afterwards, I made contact with Greg WA8JPC down in West Virginia, We had a great but short QSO, got the particulars exchanged and then QSB and some QRM brought an end to the contact.  West Virginia is a great state to have in the log already.  So that's three!  Only 47 more to go.

I think I will paper QSL these WAS contacts from the HW8...it just feels right. 


It's on! One down and 49 to go!

Picked up the HW8 today from Chuck KD9DVB at the Brownsburg IN  Hamfest. It came with a matching Heathkit power supply, the venerable HWA-7-1, a set of Hi-Z head phones and an adapter for the antenna connection to go from RCA to SO-239.

Photo by Jeff KE9V

Got it home and gave it a visual inspection and my heart went pitter patter the whole time.  I installed it on my desk and got it all hooked up and started calling CQ.  The first thing I noticed was the dial is off by about 23 K too high.  Dial says 7075, actual freq is more like 7050.  Not a big deal as half my radios don't even have a dial read out.  I wonder if I can find a Freq Mite ( http://www.4sqrp.com/freq-mite.php ) for this thing? 

So after calling CQ a few dozen times I checked the Reverse Beacon Network to see where I was transmitting, and how loud my signal was.  The RBN is an invaluable tool for any HF operator. 

Click to Enlarge
I settled on a SKCC frequency of 7050 (reported as 7049.9 by W4PCA) and called CQ twice and was answered by Carroll down in Maryville TN. We exchanged signal reports, he was 589 and he gave me a 589 but said I dropped to 579 at the end.  Band conditions were terrible. (SSN:14 SFI:75 A:20 K:2) We had some QSB trying to thwart us but we carried on.  Carroll is a 79 year old ham and he's been at it for 62 years.  His TS-590G and 100 watts to the inverted vee, was making it through on the HW8 just fine.  My HW8 was pumping out 1800 mW according to my WM-2 watt meter.  I used my Nye Viking Master Key.

So my first state with the HW8 WAS quest is Tennessee.  Only 49 more to go! 

de KB9BVN 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Working All States - It's A DUEL!!

One of my very dear ham friends is a guy I've known for about 15 years now.  I stumbled across him on 2m one day and he was excited about being newly licensed, and being on his way home from somewhere.  We got to talking and I was discussing my obsession with QRP and CW and he accepted my offer to send him a copy of the Chuck Adams K7QO CW Course. Soon after, he was building a little QRP transceiver and was on the air.  

His name is Ivin and he is W9ILF.  Ivin is one of the best CW operators out there today, he runs circles around me and he has won many QRP events including our own State QSO party many times.  Ivin and I both have K2's and between us I think we've owned every radio Elecraft ever put out, that didn't have a 3 in the name.  Ivin also has a fabulous SWL 40+ that makes about 1.5 watts out and he has been QSOing with it almost daily for the last month.  I have a Norcal 40A at about 1 watt and I have been knocking the dust of it from time to time as well.  So we have a challenge.  My HW-8 vs his SWL 40+ in a WAS drive.  I am thrilled he has agreed to compete and frankly I don't care who wins.  Hawaii and Alaska will be challenging but we have both worked them before on less than a couple of watts.  There are some fantastic operators on the other end than can pull our pipsqueak signal out of the ether.  For that I am thankful!

So, band conditions be damned, his antennas are better than mine, but I have mojo.  Stay tuned for the weekly updates on the quest for WAS with radios that use less power than your night light.

About My Antennas

So as many of you know, I have the worst antenna system in North America.  When operating from home for the last 20 years I have been using a 1/2 wave 40m dipole...up about 30 feet...in my attic.  I also have a couple different portable verticals that I deploy in the back yard from time to time for some picnic table operations. 

I have added a new antenna to the possible mix, and that is an Eagle One vertical.  We used it at JOTA in the field last October and it managed very well on 10m-40m.  So I will be deploying that in the back yard and will be operating picnic table portable as soon as the weather cooperates.  So stay tuned!

Will I sleep tonight?

I had the picture of the HW-8 on my computer at work yesterday,  Todd (a co-worker) said, "What's that? A CB radio?" and I informed him that this was a legendary world class CW transceiver from Heathkit formerly of Benton Harbor Michigan.  He said, "Morse Code?" and I informed that yes, this was a Morse Code radio.  He then asked that question..."Why did you buy it?"...I told him because I didn't have one.  As an amateur radio operator it is my mission, my directive to go out and use, try, or buy every radio I do not have in my possession.  It's what I do. 

So tonight, on Hamfest Eve, will I be able to sleep? I have been dreaming of visions of calling CQ on the old girl since Chuck KD9DVB agreed to sell it to me.  The gates open at 7AM and I won't be there until nearly 8AM...but he's holding it for ME! 

So my fellow QRP weirdos, stay tuned, and I promise I will blog my logs in my quest for HW-8 Worked All States!  If you hear me, WORK ME!