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VE3GFN Canada flag Canada

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Bienvenido a mi casa!

Step into the shack, and have a look at the gear and the QSLs.  Amateur Radio is my hobby, my obsession, and has been my lifelong pleasure ...

VE3GFN, first licensed as VE1ADH in Halifax, Nova Scotia, has been on the air since 1956.

My main rig is now the Elecraft K3 transceiver, which is without doubt the best CW equipment I've ever used, including multiple homebrew designs of my own. The standby rig and "band checker" is my venerable Kenwood TS850, still going strong after 17 years of operation, and a few trips to the repair shop.

                   

Here is a shot of my present main operating position, showing the Elecraft K3, and the new P3 panadaptor I've recently installed. As well, I've added a new wireless keyboard, and wireless mouse, and use the computer for daily logging now, as well as contest logging.

The Palstar speakers I'm using add a lot to my joy of hamming. I usually use speakers, except when contesting or dealing with difficult conditions. These are the best speakers I've found for communications, as they refuse to buzz, click, or distort under any conditions of normal operations. I have a small stereo amplifier installed between the speakers and the two receivers which drive them, to avoid pushing the audio circuits of the receivers to their limits. I've known Paul, N8PH, Palstar's owner, since he was a VE3 living about two miles from me, and we used to compare notes on homebrew receiver designs. Paul is an excellent engineer, and these speakers reflect his talent.

The Datong audio filter in front of me has been a fixture in all my shack setups for three decades now, and is a superb accessory for CW ops. I have two Astron linear power supplies in use, one of which has been with me since I first acquired the TS850 transceiver. They give excellent performance. Just don't plan to carry them very far!

Back to the main shack photo in the corner. The two external antenna tuners (an MFJ and a Dentron) are both used on my inverted vee (see antenna description below), although not as much as in the days before the K3 was acquired. Currently, the amazing internal ATU in the K3 is used to drive the open-wire line directly on most bands, through an external Balun Designs 4:1 balun, without the need for external tuners.

I presently use four Vibroplex bug keys, and CW is certainly my favorite mode of operation. In 1982, I acquired a CW Proficiency certificate from ARRL, that says I can put 35 wpm on paper,  and I had to teach myself to touchtype first, to do that. Learning how to take CW on a "mill" is another story,  but I had to go back to 12 wpm, and start from there! These days, I'm probably good for taking 45 wpm in my head, if it's a good fist.

Here is an animated photo of the Vibroplex Deluxe Original bug I use, and it's by far the best bug I own, with jewelled bearings. The first one was a donation, lots of years ago, by my cousin Al, W8VR.  I acquired a second such bug in 2014, a gift from Tom, VE3RSA, who came to lunch one day, and brought a "hostess gift"!!!  Thanks, Tom!

Thanks to Carmen, K1LKP, and Jim, W1OBJ (both CW buddies of mine) for steering me into obtaining this marvellous graphic.

                                                                 

Incidentally I use all my bugs backwards, pushing my "dahs" and pulling my "dits". This goes back to my first years of using CW, at age 15 or so, when I bought my first Vibroplex bug, a Champion model, for about $17 new. I recently bought a second-hand duplicate of the Champion, in fine condition, for $100! My original Champion now resides in the shack of my good friend Walter, HB9AUK, outside Zurich. Walt keeps it shiny and ready to go, awaiting my next trip to Switzerland.

At any rate, I'm a "lefty", and at age 15, did not know there were left - handed bugs. I used mine in this fashion for a number of years, before reading a humorous article in a radio magazine (QST, perhaps?), that said "so I thumbed a fast five...".

Thumbed a fast five? But I use my thumb for sending dahs! How can that be? Hmmm,  have I been using this bug backwards all these years? So it would seem, but it was far too late to switch, at that point, so I continue to do so. What's really curious is that, as VE1ADH, I went out on Field Day for a number of years with the Halifax Amateur Radio Club, and none of those CW hotshots, including Wes, VE1EK, ever noticed that I was using a bug backwards!

                                                                       

I've recently added a Kenwood TS590S to my rig repetoire, and installed it on the other side of the shack. Using PC keying with a Winkeyer USB interface, I now have two contesting stations available, very similar to each other in capability, and both running the N1MM contesting software, to which I've recently migrated.

You can see one of my Palstar speakers has been moved to this section of the shack, together with one of the NE QRP Group's SCAF Audio Filters, which is as close as I can come to a second Datong audio filter!

The photo above my head is of Ernie, VE3HD (SK) a long-time friend and valuable "Elmer", in my progress toward 5BDXCC and the DXCC Honor Roll.

 

Ernie and I, together with XYLs,  did a mini - DXpedition to the Bahamas, many years ago, back when we were both leaner and meaner ... had a lot of fun, worked some DX, and strengthened our friendship.

 

                  

Here are two images of my present forty-foot tower and Triband Yagi, a Cushcraft A4S that has been in use about twenty years. The tower, a heavy-duty television type model, has been up since I bought this house in 1975. I've hand-painted it, while it was standing, at least three times. It has three stainless-steel guy wires that help support it. An inverted-vee antenna, with fifty-foot legs, is supported at the top of the tower, and fed with open-wire tuned feeders. A large number of ground radials are installed on the lawn below it. They make quite a difference, as I live on old lakebed sand!

An early interest in homebrew equipment, (motivated by the usual student budget!), led to graduation from the Ryerson Polytechnical Institute in Toronto, in Electronics, in 1965.

While working for the University of Toronto for 23 years, I published a number of my amateur radio designs in Ham Radio and CQ Magazines, and multiple editions of W6SAI's Radio Handbook (Editors and Engineers). The 19th Edition of the Radio Handbook, published in 1972, contains articles on three solid-state receivers, and all three are my designs. One of these, an all-band solid-state receiver with digital frequency display, now resides in the Hammond Radio Museum in Guelph, Ontario, their only homebrew receiver exhibit.

    

The details of my homebrew open-wire transmission line, and its supports, can be seen in the next two photos. The original wooden standoffs have all been replaced since I first installed the system. My 2 Meter vertical, on a separate mast, can be seen at the right - hand side of the house.

 

                              

 

VE3GFN was the ARRL EC for the Toronto area for many years, during which I helped organise the Mississauga derailment/evacuation communications, which was used for 3 days in 1979. I was also very active in the National Traffic System for many years, at all levels, all on CW.

Contesting on CW has been an interest since my early days in ham radio, and has been regenerated with the introduction of computer logging software.

I entered my first contest in 1956, shortly after I was licensed as VE1ADH. In 1958, VE1ADH won the old VE/W contest for the Maritimes section, and acquired his first contest certificate. This, with a Hallicrafters SX99 receiver, a Heath DX35 transmitter, wire antennas, and manual logging techniques!

            

My "personal best" to date is the 2014 CQ WW CW contest, when I racked up 1314 QSOs in 26 hours of operation, runnng low power, single operator class.

In 2011 I won the second place certificate for Ontario, in my class, for the CQ WW contest, on CW, and in 2013 I took first place for my section in the 10 Meter contest, on CW.

             

In 2011, I also took first place in my class, for the CQ WPX contest, and first place for my section for the ARRL SS, both on CW.

            

My all - time achievement in contesting might be the 2014 ARRL DX CW contest, when I took high Canada.  All I was doing was trying to beat my prior scores!

                                                                 

The next two photos show the Butternut 80M/40M vertical antenna I've installed, and the 160 Meter resonator that gets it on the "Top Band". I'm not prepared to say it is any more effective than the inverted-vee, but in long-haul situations, it is often equal to the vee. On 160 Meters, it's a toss-up as to which is better. In 160 Meter contests, I now use them both! The left - hand photo shows the guying arrangement I've installed on it, including the "truss" that keeps it from blowing over in strong north winds.

                                     

The Elecraft K3 has given me a new band to play with, namely, 6 Meters!

This was always a "no no" band before, with terrible TVi, but cable television has changed all that!

I've recently added a Cushcraft 6M 3-element Yagi, on top of my tribander, which puts it at 45 feet in elevation.

This antenna is proving itself to be a killer on 6 Meters!

                                         

 

Here is VE3GFN, up on the tower, doing the installation for the new 3 - element 6 Meter Yagi.   All in a day's work for a 74 -year old radio ham, and good exercise!  Not bad for an old fart, eh?

 

                                                    

 

DXing has always been a strong interest. The "countries confirmed" total now exceeds 344. VE3GFN has qualified for 5BDXCC, and with a recent QSO with VU7AG, has finally qualified for the DXCC Honor Roll, all using just 100 watts, and paper QSL cards!

                                      

Our friends Stan and Linda (VE3TW) gave us a "plaque party" on the occasion of the arrival of my Honor Roll plaque, and we drank its health with Stan's excellent homebrew Reisling.  The cake which Linda whipped up (see the photo above)  was good enough to put the most dedicated dieter off the discipline!

I've been retired since 1999 (just in time for the sunspot maximum!), having spent the last 9 years of my working career teaching electronics and computers for the Toronto Board of Education, during which I completely rejuvenated the electronics program at Danforth Collegiate & Technical Institute.

A published freelance travel writer and photographer since 1985, I now spend lots of time on travel and photography, together with my artist wife Allison. I maintain a web site at: http://www.pathcom.com/~mgold

In the spring of 2014,  I took down my venerable Cushcraft A4S, after one section of the boom split from end to end, allowing the director element to swing around, independent of other elements.  We decided to retire this antenna after 24 years of service, and I ordered an identical replacement.

                              

Here is a photo of the new antenna on its way up the tower, an erection technique using a "tram line",  engineered by Doug, VE3MV. We had to maneuver it around tower guy lines and telephone wires! The new tribander, safely mounted, is shown as well.

                     

                          

 

 

 

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