Tuesday, December 26, 2017

The End of 2017 is Near...Happy New Year!

Woke up this morning to go to work...it was 10 F outside and I didn't want to go, but go, I did.  At lunchtime the temperature had dropped down to 8 F...I miss those days of summer. 

2018 is beating on the door, and with it comes a great QRP radio event.  The 25th Anniversary of the NorCAL 40 transceiver kit.  Originally designed by none other than Wayne Burdick N6KR, and updated to the NorCAL 40A in 1995, it was one of the most successful kits unleashed on the QRP community. 

Back in 1998 I was thinking about getting back into the hobby. I had been licensed since 1988 but with two young boys in scouting, and my desire to participate fully with that, ham radio went by the wayside.   My eldest N9AWM got his Eagle in 1995, and my youngest son Jason, got his Eagle in 1999.  My duties in the troop were slowing down as the new leaders were stepping up and taking things over.  I had time. 

A friend of mine, Rick KB9NDF stopped by one evening and was asking if I was still a ham.  He had just upgraded to Extra and was telling me all about the fun he was having on CW with his Ten Tec Scout and loop antenna he had at home.  In 1988 I had managed to learn CW and passed the 5 WPM test but I hadn't used it in about ten years.  The bug bit me and I was very interested in QRP CW because of how easy it would be to take on camping trips and operate from the outdoors. 

About that time I signed up to join the QRP-L list, and met another Elmer extraordinaire in Mac Steinmeyer AF4PS.  After asking a bunch of questions on the QRP-L list Mac guided me toward my very first radio kit..it was between the Small Wonder Labs 40m rig, or the more complete Norcal 40A from Wilderness radio.  The 40A was more expensive but it came with a case, a keyer board, all the knobs and buttons and switches..so I went with that setup.  I also bought a Z-Match tuner from Roy Grigson at Emtech.  The ZM-2 antenna tuner would match a school bus, so they claimed.

Mac AF4PS - Enjoying his QRP
Mac nurtured me through the building process via emails and phone calls.  It was tedious mentoring I am sure but he stuck with me.  I got it completed but had no way to know if I was getting any output.  So my friend Rick KB9NDF and I were able to make the right adjustments to squeeze about 1.2 watts out of it into a dummy load and measured on a borrowed power meter.  The next weekend was Labor Day  1998, and I had strung up two pieces of telephone cross connector wire over the roof of my home, connected the ZM-2 to my "antenna" and the radio, tuned it until the LED went out and fired off a CQ....my very fist solo CQ...I was eventually answered by a station in Mississippi! KF4EWO heard my tiny one watt signal and gave me a 579 report.   I was hooked. 

Front of my NC40a with KC-1 Keyer Board

Rear of my NC40a with Extra jack for Paddles

the original PCBoard in my 1998 Norcal 40A
Mac was also the inventor of the Infamous Attic Dipole at his old house in Florida.  This prompted me to try the same thing here in Indiana, and man was I surprised at how well it worked.  It's been up there almost 20 years now.  Take a look at Mac's!

Chuck Adams K7QO has done a great service by reviving the Norcal 40A radio on his website at http://k7qo.com along with the blessing of Wayne Burdick N6KR.  You can buy a newly worked NC40A PCBoard and start scrounging parts.  I am in the process of doing just that right now.  I only need a couple more things and I should be ready to start melting solder.

So in 2018 we Norcal users will be sending out our NAP (Norcal 35th Anniversary Party) numbers...if you hear a prime number that means the station you worked was using a Norcal 40 radio.  My number is 1777 and I hope we can trade numbers on the air in 2018. 

Here's to a great and prosperous new year in 2018!  

Best 73 de KB9BVN 
dit dit

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Cold outside but the bands are heating up!

NZ4T - Ricky
In preparation for the upcoming QRPARCI Holiday Homebrew Sprint this afternoon, I fired up the K2 and tested the waters on HF.  The bands were really pretty quiet around noon, I tossed out a few CQ's here and there and did not get any response.  Spun the dial and tried out 10m through 40m, checked the band condition reports, and things did not look that promising. 

So after about a half hour I locked in on 7041 Khz and started calling CQ.  The band was sounding pretty quiet and pretty empty so to my surprise I heard Ricky NZ4T booming in to the Hoosier state from Covington Virginia. He was 599 here and he gave me a 579 on my 10w K2 effort.  Ricky was using a old J-38 and his Yaesu FT 920 with a windom up in his trees to work a little CW today.  Ricky has an excellent fist, and was very patient with my sloppy sending today, my fingers on my right hand go numb from time to time due a pinched nerve...it never fails.  Anyway, we had a very nice QSO lasting right at a half an hour. We found out that neither of us are big fans of winter weather, and we both use CW as our primary means of amateur radio communications.  Ricky is also SKCC 12246, so we exchanged SKCC numbers and signed.  Ricky has also earned the almost world famous KB9BVN Ragchewer Award!  

Anyway, I hope to hear a few of you during the Holiday Homebrew Sprint today.  Remember it starts at 3PM EST and ends at 7PM EST.  Go to the QRP-ARCI website for all the rules and online logging.  

Best 73 de KB9BVN

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Winter is here...time to QSO!

Not much on TV today, it's nice out, for December 3rd, and the Colts are losing again...what to do?  So I fired up the K2 and got tuned up on 7042 and started calling CQ at 5w with the attic dipole.  After about 20 mins of not getting any answers I checked the reverse beacon network and I was definitely getting out.

Finally I got a call from Gary AD4EV down in Hays North Carolina.  Not a new state but a welcomed QSO.  Gary was running a Ten Tec rig at 20 watts into a windom, we traded 579's and the QSB was moderate.  Hays is a small town of about 1800 located in north western North Carolina in Wilkes County very close to the Great Smoky Mountains.  Thanks for the QSO Gary! 

Next up was Mike KD2WX up in Hilton New York.   Mike has been licensed for about a year, and has moved up the ranks from technician to Extra class.  He is a new CW operator but let me tell you this, his fist was good copy here in Central Indiana.  Mike is a software engineer for an aerospace company. Hilton NY is a village that is inside the town of Parma NY in Monroe County, and is known as "The Little Village with the Big Heart".  Mike was on his Kenwood 590S and using a dipole antenna. Thanks for the QSO Mike! 

KG4GFX - Bill
Then I was called by Bill KG4FXG from down in Lawrenceville, GA.  Bill was using his Kenwood TS 570S  and a long wire for an antenna.  Bill is also into QRP and has a K1, and OHR 500 and enjoys kit building.  He's also a CPA!  Bill is a regular and often serves as NCS on the Georgia Training Net every night at 9PM eastern,  on the frequency of 3549 Khz.  I could have talked to Bill for hours but I had to QRT and tend to the wishes of "She Who Must Be Obeyed".  Things were just getting interesting too, I love talking to fellow QRPers. It's been a relaxing Sunday afternoon on the radio.   Thanks for the QSO Bill! 

Lawrenceville GA is the county seat to Gwinnett County.  Founded in 1821 by the Georgia General Assembly, Lawrenceville has survived the Civil War and has grown to become an important suburb of Atlanta.  The city is named after Commodore James Lawrence, commander of the frigate Chesapeake during the War of 1812. Lawrence, a native of New Jersey, is probably best known today for his dying command, "Don't give up the ship!" William Maltbie, the town's first postmaster, suggested the name of "Lawrenceville". So there you have it.  Also, you might recognize the name Oliver Hardy, he was half of the Laurel and Hardy comedy duo, and he was from Lawrenceville GA.  

That was pretty much it for the day, I have also been working on my Norcal 40A parts gathering phase so I can start building this new kit soon.  Chuck Adams K7QO and the guys at qrptech have done a great job with this project.  I can not wait to get mine on the air. 

Best 73 de KB9BVN

Thursday, November 23, 2017

What a busy month!

Happy thanksgiving to everyone!  I hope you all have a wonderful day and get to enjoy family and friends and the ability to take some time out to just be thankful for all your blessings.   We live in a great country, and we really appreciate the men and women that are serving our nation abroad and can't be home with loved ones today.  

This morning I fired up the K2 and the attic dipole, and made my second QSO of the month.  I was calling CQ on 7118 and was answered by Travis KJ4PCC from down in Bartlett Tennessee, which is way down there by Memphis...home of the King of Rock and Roll.  Travis is running a IC 7300 to a dipole at about 75 watts, I was on the K2 at a whopping 10 watts.  The band was a little noisy and we started out having some slow rolling QSB.  Travis has been a ham since 2009 but got started on CW back in 2014 when he was gifted a straight key as a Christmas present.  I can attest to his smooth and easy to copy fist, he is a fine example of armchair copy.  I had my original Vibrokeyer in action and we ended up ragchewing for a half hour.  We chewed the rag for so long that I had to issue the KB9BVN Ragchewer Certificate to Travis.  I will mail it and my QSL card out tomorrow.  Travis is spending the day with his family and enjoying a delicious feast. 

On another note, Chuck Adams K7QO has done it again. His qrp-tech group has been working with Wayne Burdick and they are now producing a new PC Board for the legendary Norcal 40 transceiver.  2018 is the 25th Anniversary of the Norcal 40 and there will be a year long event called "The Norcal 40 25th Anniversary Party" or NAP.   I will be operating my Norcal 40A that I built in 1998 under NAP #1777.  You can get a NAP number by following the instructions on the K7QO website.  It's very exciting.  I and several others in the Hoosier QRP Group have purchased the new boards and we are currently on a parts hunt.  We hope to have our new Norcal 40's running by January 1st.  In the parts hunt, Steve W9BRI,  found this really cool board holder on Amazon for $12,.00 - I do not know how I survived without one. 

Board Holder from Amazon 
It is so handy, and makes it so much easier to build out a board with lots of parts, this one is my 30m One Watter from http://kitsandparts.com  - it's adjustable and can handle most board sizes. It's a very cool tool. 

Also Chuck K7QO has created an entire series on building the Norcal 40, these can all be found on Youtube and links from his website.  It's one of Wayne's first designs and it has stood the test of time very well. 

Best 73 de KB9BVN

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Wayne N6KR on CW

Wayne Burdick is a QRPer's QRPer.  He's been putting great kits out there for us to enjoy for more than a couple of decades now.  Here's his take on CW, culled from the QRP-L reflector, I couldn't have said it better if I sat down and tried real hard.

Read on:

I find that CW has many practical and engaging aspects that I just don’t get with computer-mediated modes like FT8. You’d think I’d be burned out on CW by now, over 45 years since I was first licensed, but no, I’m still doin’ it 

Yes, FT8 (etc.) is a no-brainer when, despite poor conditions, your goal is to log as many contacts as possible with as many states or countries as possible. It’s so streamlined and efficient that the whole process is readily automated. (If you haven’t read enough opinions on that, see "The mother of all FT8 threads” on QRZ.com, for example.)

But back to CW. Here’s why it works for me. YMMV.

CW feels personal and visceral, like driving a sports car rather than taking a cab. As with a sports car, there are risks. You can get clobbered by larger vehicles (QRM). Witness road range (“UP 2!”). Fall into a pothole (QSB). Be forced to drive through rain or snow (QRN). 

With CW, like other forms of human conversation, you can affect your own style. Make mistakes. Joke about it.

CW is a skill that bonds operators together across generations and nations. A language, more like pidgin than anything else, with abbreviations and historical constructs and imperialist oddities. A curious club anyone can join. (At age 60 and able to copy 50 WPM on a good day, I may qualify as a Nerd Mason of some modest order, worthless in any other domain but of value in a contest.)

With very simple equipment that anyone can build, such as a high-power single-transistor oscillator, you can transmit a CW signal. I had very little experience with electronics when I was 14 and built an oscillator that put out maybe 100 mW. Just twisted the leads of all those parts together and keyed the collector supply--a 9-volt battery. With this simple circuit on my desk, coupled to one guy wire of our TV antenna mast, I worked a station 150 miles away and was instantly hooked on building things. And on QRP. I’m sure the signal was key-clicky and had lots of harmonics. I’ve spent a lifetime making such things work better, but this is where it started. 

Going even further down the techno food chain, you can “send” CW by whistling, flashing a lamp, tapping on someone’s leg under a table in civics class, or pounding a wrench on the inverted hull of an upside-down U.S. war vessel, as happened at Pearl Harbor. Last Saturday at an engineering club my son belongs to, a 9-year-old demonstrated an Arduino Uno flashing HELLO WORLD in Morse on an LED. The other kids were impressed, including my son, who promptly wrote a version that sends three independent Morse streams on three LEDs. A mini-pileup. His first program.

Finally, to do CW you don’t always need a computer, keyboard, mouse, monitor, or software. Such things are invaluable in our daily lives, but for me, shutting down everything but the radio is the high point of my day. The small display glows like a mystic portal into my personal oyster, the RF spectrum. Unless I crank up the power, there’s no fan noise. Tuning the knob slowly from the bottom end of the band segment to the top is a bit like fishing my favorite stream, Taylor Creek, which connects Fallen Leaf Lake to Lake Tahoe. Drag the line across the green, sunlit pool. See what hits. Big trout? DX. Small trout? Hey, it’s still a fish, and a QSO across town is still a QSO. Admire it, then throw it back in.

(BTW: You now know why the Elecraft K3, K3S, KX2, and KX3 all have built-in RTTY and PSK data modes that allow transmit via the keyer paddle and receive on the rig’s display. We decided to make these data modes conversational...like CW.)

Back to 40 meters....



Saturday, October 21, 2017

Fatima, Medjugorje, JOTA and things

The Vigil celebration of the 100th anniversary
of the miracle of the sun in Fatima
Looks like it has been about three weeks since my last update, as some of you know, we have a bunch of grand children, and we have had eight of them staying with us for about 12 days while my son and his wife were on a pilgrimage to Fatima Portugal and Medjugorje Bosnia

The two eldest are hams, recently getting licensed last month but the other six are still working on it,.  The one year old seems to enjoy CW so she is of course, my favorite. 

So I have been very busy with work, and helping my wife keep an eye on the grand children, and I have had very little time to be on the air until this weekend. 

So I fired up the K2 today, and tuned up 20m the best I could and called CQ JOTA  many many times on 14060....and heard no one.  OK..so how many Boy Scouts actually know CW anyway?  Well my mic is busted so CW is my mode of choice today.  So I tuned back down to 40m and landed on 7039 Khz and sent out a few CQ JOTAs and ran into Fred KD8SMO over in Massilon Ohio.  We traded 599's and he was hoping I was a Boy Scout and I was hoping he was too.  I am a Scout leader, a job I have been doing for the last almost 32 years.  It's one of my most favorite volunteer jobs.  Fred is a retired engineer that graduated from Ohio State University (THE Ohio University) in 1970, most of my family are Buckeyes and I knew exactly where Massilon was located.  Fred is fairly new to CW operations and has a great fist.  It was my pleasure to work him. 

Next up I got to meet Gary K8NYG from over in Dunbar WVa, we traded 599's and I told him I was originally from his state but had lived most of my life here in Indiana.  Dunbar is an interesting place.  The town was formed in 1921 on land that contains 11 Native American mounds, and was at one time the property of General George Washington.  Washington was awarded the land there in recognition of his military service.  Mineral rich and located on the Kanawha River, Dunbar was home to the Gravely Tractor company and numerous glass factories. 

Going to go watch Abbot and Costello Meets Frankenstein this afternoon with a couple of the grandsons and their mom and dad.  We enjoy the Artcraft Theatre in Franklin Indiana very much.  It's a 1920's movie theater that has been undergoing a renovation for the last 10 years or so.  It's THE place to go watch old movies.  

Best 73 de KB9BVN