Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Never Ceases to Amaze me....

I've always said you meet the most interesting folks on ham radio and tonight was no exception.  I was tuning around on 20m looking for any kind of signal, it was too late and the band was too quiet, and I still wanted to have a QSO. 

So I tuned down to the 40m band to see what was going on there and stumbled across KF4IZE calling CQ on 7114.  Will lives down in Fayetteville NC and has been an Extra class operator since 1998.  He gave me a 569 and I had him a solid 599 here in Central Indiana. 

Will KF4IZE on his 2002 Harley Davidson Fat Boy
He enjoys fixing up and running boat anchor gear, as well as riding his prized 2002 Harley Davidson  Fat Boy.  Will was using a old Navy Flameproof key tonight, and I was at the K2 and using my Nye Viking Master Key.  He gave me his SKCC number and I forgot to give him mine...I swear I am losing my marbles.  

Will retired from the US Army Signal Corps after serving for 20 years in 2008.  In his spare time he likes to run mini marathons and regular marathons, and cruising around on his Harley.  His current antenna farm consists of a home brew two-element delta loop parasitic array for 40 meters and a two-element vertical ground plane phased array for 2 meters. You can find Will KF4IZE mostly operating 40-meter AM (7.290/295) and occasional CW (7.050/7.115)

Operating Position at KF4IZE in Fayetteville NC

Thanks for the QSO Will and thanks for your service.  My dad is a retired Sgt. Major and my son is a Marine.  We owe you guys a lot! 

Best 73

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Quick Receive Audio Mod for the Hilltopper 20

When I got my Hilltpper 20, it was pre-built by an experienced QRP builder and QRP operator, so I was satisfied with it bveing built correctly.   I ran it through the calibration process per the documents and was very satisfied with the results of that calibration.  I had some trouble getting it exactly right so I was asking about the process on the 4 States QRP Group reflector.  Dave Benson K1SWL, the designer of the Hilltopper rigs and former owner of Small Wonder Labs was kind enough to send me explicit instructions on the calibration process, and using those instructions I was able to get the transmit and the receive spot on. 

So since I had Dave's attention, I sent him an email asking if there were any tweaks I could make to the receiver that would make it a bit louder and not sound so  muffled or narrow.  He responded that he'd been thinking about that and suggested I change R5 to 470K or 510K and change C22 to 150pf .  He had calculated this might add nearly a 10db gain to the circuit. 

R5 WAS a 150K resistor and C22 WAS a 470pf COG capacitor.  They are located just above the Dual Low Noise Op Amp U3 which is a NE5532.   See below: 

Swap R5 and C22 out with new values

Location of Parts to Swap out on Hilltopper 20

Once I got the parts it took me maybe an hour total to remove the old parts and install the new parts.  My de-soldering skills are horrid so I went slow so I didn't gronk up the circuit board.  Solder wick is your best friend here, and having a de-soldering bulb handy is really really helpful. 

I don't have any gear that I can use to measure the actual electrical improvement but my ears were VERY happy to hear an increase in audio gain, and an increase in the number of signals.  I would tune a station on my K2 and then switch to the HT20 and was able to tune the same, even the weak ones.  

Dave did mention that this mod MIGHT cause some screeching if I tuned any really loud signals, so far I have not experienced that.  I reported the improvements to Dave and he is now working on a possible Op Amp replacement idea.  I can't wait to see how that turns out.  Stay tuned.  If you perform this modification, please let Dave Benson know how it turned out for you and if you see any improvement.  I was very happy with it. 

Yesterday here in the Hoosier Heartland we had gorgeous sunny skies,  fair winds, but cold temps.  So I did not get to take the rig to the outdoors.  Woke up this morning with a serious  head cold and about an inch of new snow....good grief.  Will Old Man Winter just pack up and GO.  

73 de KB9BVN

Saturday, March 16, 2019

20m Finally Opens a Wee Bit While I am Home!

If you have been reading along, you'll remember I bought a pre-built Hilltopper 20 QRP transceiver about two weeks ago.  I have not had a single QSO on it until today, and I am a happy man.  I have been trying and trying to make a QSO with this radio every afternoon when I get home from work, but it's just been too late in the day for a cooperative 20m band and my sorry, sorry antenna, the infamous attic dipole. 

Haiti Air Ambulance Service
Finally this afternoon I was able to work a quick contact with HH2AA from a remote operated station down in Haiti.  HH2AA is the callsign for the Radio Club of Haiti and they were working a contest.  The operator for this station is controlling it from a remote site. This is a special call to support the Haïti Air Ambulance Service. Please consider donating to this wonderful cause!

According to QRZ:  The HH2AA station currently sits at 6300'ASL with a Elecraft K3 running 100w with 3 Element Tri-bander fixed to the U.S. and a 4 Element Tri-bander fixed to EU along with a OCF Dipole off a 80' Tower.

I worked them at 19:40Z and on 14043.2 Khz today, we traded 599, but this was a contest exchange...they were 100% 599 here in Indianapolis today.   I see they have now moved up to 15m. 

What a view from the tower eh? 

Thanks for the contact HH2AA, QSL card is in the mail!

I am now ready to take this show on the road as soon as the weather gets a little warmer around here.  I have an Alex Loop antenna, and a portable vertical called the PAC-12 I hope to use during my lunch hours and from the local park bench.  I have a Hilltopper 20, a Norcal 20, and my K1 to go portable with this summer. Stay tuned and listen for KB9BVN....he's desperate. 

Best DX and 73 to all! 

Monday, March 11, 2019

Today in QRP

Rev. George Dobbs G3RJV - SK 

In the world of QRP today, we were informed of the passing of Rev. George Dobbs G3RJV early this morning.  George was a QRPers QRPer and was a huge believer in "minimalist radio".  George was the founder of the G-QRP (QRP club of Great Britain) and was the editor of Sprat Magazine for years and years.  The world famous "Sudden Receiver" was designed and built by George in 1989 and is still sold as a kit by QRPme today.  George taught us about "Occum's Razor" and the word "pelf".  A featured speaker at numerous FDIM events in the past, a contributing author/editor to Sprat, and many RSGB publications.   He will be greatly missed.   

Tonight when I got home from work I was treated to an extra hour of daylight thanks to this invention we call Daylight Savings Time.  I was hoping that the 20m band would give me a QSO on my new radio, the 4 States Group Hilltopper 20.  It was not to be. 

Here's my setup, a Hilltopper 20, a set of 18650 batteries, and a Nye Viking Master Key.  I have re-calibrated the tuning so I am right on frequency now, thanks to Dave Benson K1SWL for the calibration assistance. 

Hilltopper 20 and Nye Viking Master Key
I gave out some free CQ's for about 30 minutes and then checked with the Reverse Beacon Network to see if I was even making a dent in the ionosphere.  My Hilltopper 20 can output a solid 5 watts into my attic dipole.  I was not encouraged by what I saw. 

KB9BVN Spots on the Reverse Beacon Network 
Being heard in Arizona, Alberta, and Utah...but measly signal strength getting there.  It's obvious I need to get on the air at a different time of day.  I have been trying in the morning as well between 09:00Z and 09:40Z and not hearing anything.   My friend Ivin W9ILF was able to make a couple nice contacts on Sunday with his 1.5 watt Cub on 20m.  He QSO'd with a station in Washington state and Idaho.  I was not on the air Sunday at all...bad move eh? 

So...back to 40m for this evening and I will en-devour to persevere on 20m tomorrow.  dit dit

Best 73 de KB9BVN

Sunday, March 3, 2019

Happiness is a new radio...

When I got home from work on Friday my Hilltopper 20 had arrived.  So I wolfed down dinner, kissed the wife and headed to my radio room.  The Hilltopper is a radio designed by none other than Dave Benson K1SWL  of Small Wonder Labs fame.  The Hilltopper is kitted and sold by the Four State QRP Group.  I bought one that was already built by another QRPer.  You can read all about the kit on the club website and I might mention that is it one sale right can save $10.00

My Hilltopper isn't acting quite right.  I tune to 14060 and it transmits on 14062.  I am also having some issues with the receive being on the wrong frequency as well.  So I have signed up for the support group on and will get this figured out.  20m has been dead as a door nail all least in the CW band.  I think everyone must be running the ARRL SSB contest this weekend. 

The Hilltopper can put out about 7 watts with a fully charged 12v battery.  I can't wait to have a QSO with it. 

I was able to get on the air for a bit this afternoon, and knocked out four contacts, but no new states.  I had to go down to 7052 and call for SKCC, I managed to work GA, NC, NJ, and MD with the K1 at 5 watts.  The A index is at 12 and we're seeing no sunspots right now so it's pretty tough sledding.  I am going to try hard to get the Hilltopper 20 going in the right direction and between it and my Norcal 20 I hope to make contacts in the western states I need for my WAS efforts. 

Anyway, thanks for checking in.  Next weekend we are doing a VE test session for 40 people that are finishing up a county CERT training class.   That will be fun!

Best 73 de KB9BVN

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Shack Disaster....but then a QSO

Ever have one of those days?  I was getting ready to work some CW and after getting my desk top all arranged the way I wanted it, I somehow managed to shove my 1964 vintage Vibrokeyer off the back of my desk.  It was not plugged into the radio, as I have been working with just my straight key lately.  It landed....on the paddle.  The worst possible way it could have landed.  Feast your eyes on this sad sad picture. 

KB9BVN's busted Vibrokeyer
The paddle busted free of the adjustment nuts AND the little red ruby thingie on the top is GONE.  It's a totally sad day in Mudville kids.  

Luckily, Vibroplex has the parts to fix it up.  Looks like about $35 with shipping. I will attempt to fix it myself since I am a Radio Amateur, and if I gronk it up too badly I will ship it off with a box of money to the mothership at Vibroplex for repair, adjusting, and cleaning. 

Once I found all the parts I could find under my desk, I calmed down and tuned to 20m in hopes of working a western state.  I CQ'd on 14050 for about 20 mins...and didn't get a bite.  John K3WWP has been having great success on 80m, but alas I do not have an antenna at home that will work on 80m.  I need to improve the antenna situation here. 

KA4UPI in the Shack
So I tuned down to 40m, 7051.5 Khz, and sent out my call a few times and nothing.  I was reading the latest Harbor Freight Ad-zazine when I heard KA4UPI  call CQ.  I answered him and we had a great QSO.  Mark was running 100w into a Double Bazooka antenna up about 40 feet. His radio was the venerable Icom 746 and he was SKCC member 2582T, a NEW SKCC contact for he and I both.  Mark lives in Dublin Georgia.  Dublin has about 17,000 people in it, and was named for Dublin Ireland by the early settlers that came there from the Emerald Isle.  They also have produced a number of NFL players along the line. 

Thanks for the QSO! I still need 20 more states!